It is a basic right of Thais to gather, petition their government and speak their mind on politics and most other subjects. Sunday's gathering at the Royal Turf Club was a peaceful demonstration of this core right. The crowd that filled many of the 20,000 seats at the horse-racing track was sometimes raucous, but never threatening. Yet the participants should ask if the country really needs another round of divisive politics _ and decide that the answer is "no".
The publicity-hungry leader of the latest anti-Thaksin Shinawatra, anti-government group is retired Gen Boonlert Kaewprasit. The general has infamously called for a military coup to overthrow the Yingluck Shinawatra government. "I'd love to see a coup," he told this newspaper just a little more than a week ago.
Thailand has no real need of more large-scale political protests for now. But it especially has no need of a military coup _ ever. It was encouraging to hear the army commander put down this mad proposal. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha noted the government was elected, and then added: "Any government of this country is a legal entity." That is the correct answer, and the only legitimate one.
The call for a military coup is a telling measure of Pitak Siam (Protecting Siam), Gen Boonlert's overblown name for his group. Even before the first public protest by Pitak Siam, the leader was admitting the weakness of his appeal for turning out the government. Only with the guns of the military can he even hope to prevail over the Yingluck Shinawatra government. That says quite a lot about the power of his arguments against Ms Yingluck and her administration.
While it is the right of every concerned citizen to hold the government accountable, it is the duty of every serious citizen to do so at viewpoint, not gunpoint. Those who back Gen Boonlert's call for violence as valid or worthy should think again. The most recent coup, just six years ago, brought no improvement and much harm to the nation, its economy and its international accounting. Another one would be disastrous.
Ms Yingluck is partly right when she says the correct place to scrutinise the government is in parliament. There are many other avenues _ the media, public meetings, virtual groups such as through the internet. But it is not correct to scrutinise the government in the barracks. There is one proper place to overthrow a government and remove it from office _ the polling booth.
Two weeks ago, the president of the Privy Council, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, issued a call for Thais to reconcile. Being a united nation does not mean universal agreement, or a country without criticism. But it means general acceptance by citizens of basic truths. In Thailand, all good citizens should believe in democratic principles, and in settling disputes through debate or at the ballot box.
Thailand has had its fill of street protests, and the weekend threat of the red shirts to "counter" Pitak Siam only revived the bad memories. Gen Boonlert needs to reform his new movement, and remove the support for military violence against his country. The red shirts have caused enough trouble on the streets, and should try to solve their grievances in peaceful ways. The important, protected right to public protest is not a call to use it without end.