First successful anti-coup protest in Thailand

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Outside view of the Siam Paragon Shopping Centers in Bangkok, Thailand.

Amid fears of being arrested for breaking the military ban on protests and political gatherings, over 100 people have protested, without any immediate arrests in front of Siam Center in downtown Bangkok.

Although media reports that no arrests have been made, a video posted on a blog shows a protester being interviewed by a foreign reporter, claiming that 7 protesters have been arrested.

Siam Center is the shopping mall directly to the west of Siam Paragon. The protest was originally supposed to take place in front of Siam Paragon.

The protesters wore black to symbolize the death of democracy and held banners criticizing the coup.

Some of the protesters came from a group whose website, www.19sept.org, was previously shut down by the junta for breaking martial law because it criticized the coup.

Giles Ungphakorn, a political scientist from Chulalongkorn University, said: "We believe we speak for a significant number of Thais who are too worried or too afraid to speak.". When information was spreading about the gathering, earlier that day, some were cautioned not to attend.

There are contradictions found in the two first reports by thai media about the protest. The Nation claims that nearly 100 people protested, while The Bangkok Post claims that the number is only 20. The Nation claims that police had recorded the protest on video, while The Bangkok Post claims that only Siam Center security guards were present.

Due to censorship ordered on thai television by the junta, the protest was not shown on thai television. CNN has shown video footage of the protest, however, the thai cable company that broadcasts CNN within Thailand blocks all footage from CNN that talks about the coup.

Although protests are banned by the junta, as are political gatherings of more than 5 people, a deputy commander said: "police had recorded the protest on video and would examine the tape to see if protesters had broken martial law forbidding an assembly of more than five people for political purposes." It is unknown whether the police or junta will later arrest those it has recorded breaking martial law on video.

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