Thai ac­tivists who protested junta sur­ren­der to po­lice

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Asean Focus -

NEARLY three dozen Thai democ­racy ac­tivists turned them­selves in to po­lice Thurs­day af­ter be­ing sum­moned in con­nec­tion with a protest call­ing for the rul­ing mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment to step down and re­lin­quish power through elec­tions.

The le­gal aid group Thai Lawyers for Hu­man Rights said the ac­tivists were charged with vi­o­lat­ing the rul­ing junta’s ban on po­lit­i­cal as­sem­bly and nine faced an ad­di­tional charge of sedi­tion.

“I don’t un­der­stand why I have been charged,” said Neti­wit Choti­pat­paisal, a stu­dent ac­tivist. “I think Thai­land is a strong coun­try. But to ar­rest those who think dif­fer­ently and speak out and to ac­cuse them of sedi­tion shows how in­ef­fec­tive our lead­ers re­ally are.”

Thai­land has been un­der mil­i­tary rule since a 2014 coup, but the junta is un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure both at home and abroad to re­turn the coun­try to civil­ian gov­er­nance. Re­peated post­pone­ments of promised elec­tions and sev­eral cor­rup­tion scan­dals have in re­cent months eroded pub­lic sup­port for the regime.

The mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment uses a va­ri­ety of laws to dis­cour­age dis­sent, in­clud­ing a ban on po­lit­i­cal gath­er­ings of more than five peo­ple, and a sedi­tion statute, de­fined as il­licit ef­forts to bring about change in the coun­try’s laws and pun­ish­able by up to seven years in prison.

A few protest lead­ers did not re­port to po­lice on Thurs­day out of fear that they would be kept in cus­tody and un­able to at­tend another pro-elec­tion rally planned for the week­end.

Som­bat Boon­ngam-anong, a veteran ac­tivist, said the sum­monses showed that the gov­ern­ment is wor­ried that the protest move­ment could grow at the rally this week­end at Bangkok’s Democ­racy Mon­u­ment.

“They are wor­ried that many peo­ple will at­tend the event,” he said. “This is a con­cern of the gov­ern­ment that is los­ing its pop­u­lar­ity.” – As­so­ci­ated Press

Thai ac­tivists gather to turn them­selves in at a po­lice sta­tion in Bangkok, Thai­land, on Thurs­day. Photo: AP

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