But the mood was also festive. Music blared from speakers as people sang and danced in the streets of central Bangkok, with several of the city's main boulevards closed to traffic.
"Coming here today, I feel free and lighthearted. I don't have to fear for my life like two years ago," said Kalong Srisang, 52, a factory worker. "Back then we wanted democracy for the people. Now we've got it. We just have to make sure it's here to stay."
Ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was to speak via video link later Saturday. He fled into exile after being ousted by a 2006 military coup, and was convicted of corruption in absentia.
The 2010 conflict was largely between the poor and rural masses, many of whom backed Thaksin, and supporters of Thailand's traditional power holders in the royal palace and the military.
Part of the reason for the current state of peace is because Thaksin's supporters have been appeased by the new prime minister, Thaksin's sister Yingluck Shinawatra. She won her 2011 campaign by a landslide, ending the premiership of Abhisit Vejjajiva, a staunch Thaksin opponent who ordered the May 19, 2010, crackdown on antigovernment protesters who were demanding that his government immediately resign.
Yingluck has continued in the spirit of her brother's populist policies, cementing her rural base and winning over others who were not initially supporters. She has increased the minimum wage, handed out ample tax refunds to the budding middle class, and endeared rice farmers with a new program that pays them above market rates for rice.
Much of the us-versus-them vitriol has dissipated, giving way - for now - to an apparent acceptance on both sides that while neither the current government nor its predecessors are perfect, elections may be better than street violence for deciding the country's future.
Still, deep divisions remain, and many wonder how long this phase will last.
"It's stability on the surface. The conflicts are still there," said Michael Nelson, a Thai studies lecturer at Walailak University in southern Thailand. "It's a return to business as usual, and as long as there's no really outstanding point of conflict."
Many Thais who oppose Thaksin have come to terms with his sister's government, saying she has managed to maintain an uneasy but welcome calm.
"I'm not satisfied with this government, but to be honest the Abhisit government wasn't any better," said Siriluk Pornchaitipparat, an anti-Thaksin cafe owner who had to shut her central Bangkok shop for 10 days in 2010 when the Red Shirt rioting raged in her neighborhood.
"No matter how incompetent I think Yingluck is and no matter how much I'd like to reject the current government, I don't see any other choices who can compete with them effectively," she said. "Life goes on as usual but we don't know when another round of demonstrations will occur. Maybe when Thaksin returns."
New York-based Human Rights Watch has criticized both Yingluck's and Abhisit's government for failing to prosecute anyone for the scores of deaths and injuries during the political violence.
"This gives the green light for . . . people in uniform to do this again next time," said Brad Adams, the group's Asia director.