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Minor protests in Bangkok, Australia downgrades ties with Thailand and Samui tourists not even aware of the coup

On Sunday the ruling junta in Thailand deployed thousands of security forces to the streets of the capital to thwart another round of small scale protesters who are denouncing last month’s military coup. Of the hundreds that came out, none were violent but several were detained. Fears that the protest would cause unrest prompted a major shutdown of a shopping mall along with several subways and elevated train stations.

Demonstrators against military rule march towards the Victory Monument in BangkokThailand has been very quiet since the coup on May 22nd, despite small groups of pro-democracy protestors who have come out every day in Bangkok. The junta has issued stern warnings calling for all demonstrations to stop because their actions are seen as destabilizing. The protesters say they should have the right to express themselves freely. “I am here because I don’t want a coup. I want elections and democracy,” said a 66-year-old female protester who asked to be identified only as Ratchana because of concerns over being detained. This is the 21st century,” she said. “There shouldn’t be any coups, but they still keep happening … because Thais are afraid” to speak out.

Ratchana was one of several hundred protesters who gathered on an elevated walkway beside the Terminal 21 shopping mall, chanting “Freedom!” and “Democracy!” After a few hours the protest came to a stop, only to start again down the road close to the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre. Soldiers quickly broke it up.

In the meantime, Australia has downgraded ties with Thailand in the wake of this month’s military coup, imposing a travel ban on the junta leaders and cutting defence cooperation in some of the toughest punitive measures taken by a foreign government. The US and other foreign governments have condemned the May 22 coup, calling for a rapid return to democracy.

The Australian government said it had postponed three activities with the Thai military and would prevent the leaders of the coup from travelling to Australia as it continues to have “grave concerns” about the military’s actions in Thailand. “In line with our concerns, Australia is reducing our engagement with the Thai military and will lower the level of our interaction with the Thai military leadership,” Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister David Johnston said in a joint statement.

Koh Samui continues to run as normal and has experienced virtually no disruptions during either the demonstrations or the coup. The Samui Times as John Birkenshaw, a tourist on the island was asked what kind of problems he had experienced, he told our reporter “I was aware of the protests and the coup from watching the UK TV coverage to but to be honest I knew it was unlikely that Samui would be affected. My only concern was an airport closure or any problems with travel insurance due to travel warnings, but once I knew that neither my insurance or the airport were affected I decided to come anyway, I have been to Samui many times before and had looked forward to my holiday for several months before I flew. I have seen no sign of any problems in Samui, there appears to be no enforced curfew and there is no difference this time from my previous visits when there was not a coup. Samui is hot and sunny and I am thoroughly enjoying my holiday.”

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