Thailand 'run against dictatorship' draws thousands

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Runners flash three finger salute as they attend at "Run Against Dictatorship" event at a public park in BangkokImage source, Reuters
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Thousands of people have taken part in park runs across Thailand to protest against the military-backed government and call for more political freedom.

At least 10,000 people registered for the Run Against Dictatorship in the capital, Bangkok.

Some 3,000 had put their names down for a similar event in another Bangkok park in support of Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The former military ruler was returned to power as prime minister in elections last year.

Thailand has been buffeted by political instability for years, largely a battle between supporters of the military and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The country's military has a history of intervening in politics and has seized power 12 times since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. Mr Prayuth, a retired general, led the military coup that removed Thaksin's sister Yingluck in 2014.

Image source, AFP
Image source, AFP

In Bangkok, many anti-government protesters shouted "Prayuth, get out!" and "Long live democracy" as they jogged past a light security presence. Parallel events were held in other cities across the country.

Many showed the three-finger salute used during the anti-government protests in 2014, a gesture featured in the Hunger Games series that symbolises unity amid struggle.

The main run in Bangkok was considered one of the biggest shows of dissent against Mr Prayuth's government. It followed a large rally held last month by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a billionaire who has emerged as a fierce critic of the prime minister.

Image source, Reuters
Image source, AFP

"We want people to feel that to come out and demand our rights and express ourselves is something that can be done," Tanawat Wongchai, who organised Sunday's event, was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

In another park of the capital, a smaller "Walk to Cheer Uncle" event took place to show support for the government and Mr Prayuth - Thais have nicknamed the prime minister Uncle Tu.

Image source, Reuters
Image source, EPA