Hundreds of Thais took to the streets of Bangkok on Saturday to protest against the arrest of two pro-democracy activists — Anon Numpa, 35, and Panupong Jadnok, 24.
Human rights lawyer Anon and student activist Panupong were arrested on Friday in connection with recent protests demanding greater democracy in the kingdom. They were charged on eight accounts, including sedition and breaking coronavirus rules about gatherings at a demonstration held at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument on July 18.
Anon and Panupong were released on bail on Saturday afternoon on condition that they would not repeat the alleged offences.
“Our demands for a re-writing of the constitution and a rejection of the coup are constitutional,” Anon told reporters after the bail.
Anti-government protests, which are spearheaded by young activists, are being held almost every day in Thailand. Around 1,000 participated in Saturday’s rally, which, according to organizers, was the largest anti-government gathering since the contentious rally three weeks earlier.
Rising anger against PM and King
Pro-democracy protesters see Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government as a legacy of a royalist junta regime. Prayuth, who staged a coup in 2014, became prime minister after a controversial general election last year that activists say was engineered to ensure his hold on power.
Protesters allege freedoms have been disappearing under Prayuth’s rule and demand the dissolution of parliament and an end to the harassment of government critics. They also want an overhaul of the military-drafted constitution, which they say cleared the way for Prayuth’s Palang Pracharat party to claim victory in 2019 elections.
Opposition to Prayuth’s military-stacked administration has been growing in recent months, and the worsening state of the pandemic-hit economy has only added to public anger.
Pro-democracy activists have even challenged Thailand’s controversial lese majeste law, which protects King Maha Vajiralongkorn from criticism. Failing to adhere to Article 112 of the constitution is a crime punishable by three to 15 years in prison.
The King has also come under heavy criticism for his stay in Germany as Thailand grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.
shs/rc (AFP, Reuters, AP)
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