Three pro-democracy groups under the Ratsadon banner staged separate rallies on Saturday before converging near Government House to press their demands, with plans to stay overnight.
The Dern Talu Fah v2 (Walk through the Sky) march consisted of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, New Generation Nonthaburi Network and Vocational Students Against Dictatorship.
The first two groups met at Democracy Monument at 2pm while the other group assembled at Victory Monument.
People Go, a network of activists for community, land and environmental rights, also took part in the march.
The activists’ goal is to set up a Dern Talu Fah village near the seat of the government to demand the release of their friends from detention, a new constitution and the repeal of the royal defamation law, Section 112 of the Criminal Code.
They also said they would step up their push for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign immediately.
Rally organisers posted online messages urging their followers to avoid provoking the police, refrain from damaging property and to present their arguments based on facts without resorting to foul language.
Demonstrations on the previous two weekends, spearheaded by the Redem movement that is considered more radical than others, have featured clashes with police leading to injuries and numerous arrests.
A protest leader said at Democracy Monument on Saturday that the situation in this country was dire, to the point where justice has been completely destroyed.
“Freedom of expression and peaceful assembling are trashed by abuse of power. People are gagged and chained, especially through the use of Section 112, which also served as the shield to prolong power,” he said.
“Section 112 suspects are deprived of the right to bail and are jailed before being convicted. This runs against human rights and a constitutional principle of presumption of innocence. More than 150 people are affected.”
Meanwhile, the Prayut government supports big companies while ignoring the plight and misery of the people, he added.
“Community rights are ignored. People are thrown out of forests. It has no sincerity to solve people’s problems, as evident in the Bang Kloi farmland problem.”
Bang Kloi is a community deep inside Kaen Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi, which has been the ancestral home of Karen people for generations. However, they have been locked in a years-long struggle with national park officials seeking to prevent their return to the area.
A small group of demonstrators pressing the Karen cause has already set up a camp outside Government House, which has been blocked off by shipping containers and razor wire.
Four thousand police officers have been deployed to handle the rallies, with six water cannon trucks and six prisoner transport vans and two ambulances ready if needed.
The first Dern Talu Fah march covered 246 kilometres from Nakhon Ratchasima to Democracy Monument in Bangkok from Feb 16 to March 7. Activist Jatupat “Pai” Boontararaksa of the Dao Din group led the march. He was detained a day after reaching the destination on charges that included royal insult involving his other activities. The court has denied him bail.