Pop-Up Protests Spread Against Thailand's Coup

By Dow Jones Business News, 

By Newley Purnell

BANGKOK--Protesters and troops squared off at a McDonald's restaurant in central Bangkok on Sunday, the latest in a series of sporadic protests against the Thai army's takeover of the country Thursday.

Dozens of soldiers ringed the establishment at approximately 10 a.m. local time, apparently to detain an activist with the populist pro-democracy Red Shirt group who announced via his Facebook page that he would appear at the location around that time, daring authorities to apprehend him. (Click here to read more about the latest developments in Thailand.)

The activist, Sombat Boonngamanong, wasn't present. But after a short while, a man wearing a red shirt sat down on the steps in front of the restaurant in defiance, holding his hands in the air, with both hands forming victory signs.

Soon troops gathered him up and dragged him off. Fellow protesters resisted, resulting in a shoving match. Shortly after, more scuffles broke out between the growing crowd of demonstrators at other locations nearby, including the Gaysorn shopping mall where luxury brands including Louis Vuitton have outlets.

Protesters berated the camouflage-clad soldiers, yelling at them to "get out." Some demonstrators held signs that said, among other things, "We want democracy" and "Stop!! No coup."

In a play on the tourist slogan "Thailand: Land of Smiles", one placard read "Land of Slime."

One woman, wearing dark sunglasses and black tape over her mouth, held up a sign that said "Long Live the People."

"We came here to show that we want a democracy," said Orr Samart, a 40-year-old garment industry worker from Bangkok who was holding a sign that said "Why coup?"

The soldiers "just want to keep the power" for themselves, Ms. Orr said, noting that she came because she saw a message on Facebook encouraging protesters to rally at the McDonald's at noon.

Thai army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power in the country's 12th successful coup d'├ętat, saying that the move was necessary to restore order after months of large and sometimes violent pro and antigovernment protests. Since then, nearly 200 people have been instructed to report to the armed forces for questions, including two former prime ministers.

Write to Newley Purnell at newley.purnell@wsj.com

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