Conflicts & War

Thai authorities detain 14 suspected pro-democracy protesters

Bangkok, Dec 31 (efe-epa).- Thai authorities on Thursday arrested 14 suspected members of the pro-democracy movement that in recent months has staged a wave of mass protests calling for political and royal reforms.

The NGO Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said on Twitter that the detainees were accused of breaching the emergency law banning street gatherings during the pandemic.

Thai health authorities have logged a total of 6,800 Covid-19 cases and 61 related deaths since the pandemic began.

The arrests were made after the demonstrators tried to sell shrimp on a Bangkok street as an act of solidarity with the merchants affected by the closure of a seafood market in the neighbouring Samut Sakhon province following a Covid-19 outbreak.

Earlier this month, the student-led movement announced a pause in mass demonstrations until January but smaller protests such as this have gone ahead.

The protest movement, which began in July, is calling on the prime minister and former coup leader Prayut Chan-ocha to step down. The demonstrators also want to see changes made to the constitution, which they say was inherited by the former military junta, in power between 2014-19.

The movement has also called for a reduction of royal power in Thailand, a taboo subject in a country with some of the toughest lèse-majesté laws in the world.

The audacity of the protest movement has come at a price. At least 29 protesters, including a 16-year-old, have been accused of lèse-majesté, which can carry prison sentences of between three and 15 years.

Others face charges of sedition, which can be punished with seven years in prison.

The protesters have used social media as a megaphone, calling for an end to the current hierarchy of power in Thailand and the powerful influence wielded by the military, which has taken power in 13 coups since 1932. EFE-EPA

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