Thousands of anti-junta demonstrators marched Saturday afternoon to the Army Headquarters in central Bangkok, which houses the military Council for National Security (CNS), calling the CNS to step down.
The march, led by the group Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD), started from Sanam Luang (or Royal Field square) in early afternoon under the burning sun and reached the Democratic Monument by 2:30 p.m. (0730GMT).
The DAAD, planned to march to the Army Headquarters, where the head office of the CNS, which led the Sept. 19 military coup last year that ousted then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is located.
The anti-junta Alliance was formed by some 20 anti-CNS and pro- Thaksin groups, one of the key groups being People's Television ( PTV), a satellite TV station set up by the Thaksin-founded, former ruling party Thai Rak Thai but not allowed to broadcast in Thailand, after the Constitutional Tribunal ordered the Thai Rak Thai to disband on May 30 on electoral charges in a verdict.
The Alliance demanded two CNS key members, chairman and Army Chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin and his assistant Saprang Kalayanamitr to step down, had organized several similar mass anti-CNS rallies in Bangkok.
More than 2,800 security officers were deployed to keep order. No violence was reported by press time.
Metropolitant police chief Pol. Lt-Gen. Adisorn Nonsi warned that severe, but legal measures would be applied to deal with demonstrators who use force against security personnel.
The protesters themselves will not be allowed to camp overnight in front of the Army Headquarters, and police will be vigilant for instigators of any third party who might mingle with the demonstrators with the intention to create disturbances, he said.
Adisorn said police deployed around the Headquarters were carrying only walkie-talkie radios, cell phones and shields, and they would refrain from using force against the demonstrators.
Police have set up barricades around the Headquarters on Rachadamneon Road towards Army Headquarters some 500 meters away to block the marchers.
Rachadamneon, a six-lane avenue in central Bangkok, as well as a few other nearby roads, were virtually closed for vehicle traffic temporarily as the march parade packed a strip of over two kilometers from Sanam Luang to the headquarters.
DAAD leaders arrived ahead at the Army Headquarters to negotiate with the Metropolitan Police, asking them to remove the barricades to let the marchers move to the site.
Police later agreed to remove the barricades after the demonstrators leaders agreed to end the march by 11:00 p.m. ( 1600GMT). The parade, the number of the marchers grew to over 40, 000 in two hours after the march started, then moved on to the Headquarters to start a rally.
CNS Chairman Sonthi Boonyaratkalin was earlier quoted by local media as saying that he expected a large number of people would take part in the march, but he believed the situation was under control.
Sonthi said he has assigned the First Army Region to take charge of the situation and follow the so-called Pitak 1 security plan, which could result in emergency law if things get out of hand.