Nine activists released on bail after student protests in Thailand
Update 2: adds information
Bangkok, Aug 20 (efe-epa).- Nine Thai activists were released on bail on Thursday evening after being arrested in relation to student demonstrations calling for democratic reforms and a reduction of the military’s and monarchy’s power.
Four people were arrested Wednesday night and another five Thursday on charges of sedition, punishable by up to seven years in prison, and of violating the ban on demonstrations due to the pandemic, among other charges.
One of those, lawyer Arnon Nampa, was arrested for calling for a reform of the monarchy to limit its control during a protest on Aug. 3 in which he appeared disguised as the fictional wizard Harry Potter.
Arnon was already arrested once at the beginning of this month for participating in the anti-government demonstration on Jul. 18, which marked the beginning of a wave of mobilizations that have since taken place almost daily, especially in universities.
On Sunday, a student organization managed to gather tens of thousands of people in the center of Bangkok, in what has been the largest of the protests so far.
Police on Thursday also detained two musicians from the hip-hop groups Rap Against Dictatorship and Eleven Finger for participating in the protests, started last July by university students joined by other civil groups and even high school students.
Rap Against Dictatorship published a rap song two years ago panning the old military junta and the abuses committed by the military in the recent history of Thailand that went viral on social media.
So far, police have arrested eleven activists, including several students, related to the demonstrations, calling for the dissolution of parliament, a new constitution and an end to the persecution of dissidents.
The first three detainees in the past two weeks were released on bail on the condition that they not participate in further protests.
“The government’s repeated promises that it would listen to dissidents have been proven pointless as arrests of activists increase,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“The authorities should make amends for their mistakes and drop the charges and release Arnon and the other detained activists,” Adams added.
The protesters also ask that the power of the military – responsible for 13 coups d’état since 1939 – and of the monarchy – protected by a strict lese majesty law, which provides penalties of up to 15 years in prison for those who insult the institution – be reduced.
The protests are also directed at Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 military coup and who was elected head of the government in a 2019 election that has been described as non-transparent. EFE-EPA