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Thailand's junta bans protests against coup (with video)

BANGKOK — More than 1,000 Thai troops and police sealed off one of Bangkok's busiest intersections Thursday to prevent a planned protest, as authorities said they would no longer allow any demonstrations against last week's military coup.

Truckloads of soldiers blocked all incoming roads to the capital's Victory Monument in a massive show of force at the height of evening rush hour in an area that serves as one of the city's commuter bus hubs.

More than a dozen police prisoner trucks were parked along the emptied roundabout, but there was little sign of protesters, who have come out almost daily to defy a ban on political gatherings.

A Belgian man was detained for displaying a T-shirt saying "PEACE PLEASE," and two Thai women were taken away in a police truck after they showed signs with anticoup messages.

The demonstrations have been generally small and mostly leaderless but protesters had planned to gather Thursday and called for a mass rally on Sunday.

Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung, the deputy national police chief, said the small protests would no longer be allowed. He said nine companies of soldiers and police — about 1,350 — were deployed in Thursday's operation.

"We know their rally is mainly for symbolic reasons, but it's against the law," he said. "We have to keep the law sacred."

Somyot warned that if protesters change their tactics, "we are ready to tackle that."

Earlier, in another part of the city, about 100 students held an anticoup protest on the campus of prestigious Thammasat University, which ended peacefully.

The large army deployment came a day after hundreds of protesters gathered at Victory Monument and outnumbered soldiers. Scuffles broke out in which water bottles and other objects were hurled at soldiers, and a green army Humvee was vandalized with large white letters reading, "NO COUP. GET OUT."

The mounting tension comes a week after the army seized power, overthrowing a government that won a landslide election victory three years earlier. The army says it had to act to restore order after seven months of increasingly violent political turbulence.

Earlier Thursday, the army told foreign media that it eventually plans to hold elections, but offered no time frame or roadmap for guiding the country back to democratic rule.

Thai schoolgirls have their photographs taken on Thursday with soldiers guarding the area at Victory Monument in Bangkok, Thailand. The soldiers were there to prevent a planned protest.

Associated Press

Thai schoolgirls have their photographs taken on Thursday with soldiers guarding the area at Victory Monument in Bangkok, Thailand. The soldiers were there to prevent a planned protest.

Thailand's junta bans protests against coup (with video) 05/29/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 29, 2014 10:23pm]

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