Thai police arrest two more student protest leaders

Bangkok, Aug 26 (efe-epa).- Police in Thailand on Wednesday arrested another two young activists for their roles in a student protest movement demanding democratic reforms and a reduction of the military’s and monarchy’s power.

The detainees are Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, secretary of the “Free Youth” organisation that on Aug. 16 called the largest demonstration since the student protests began this summer in which more than 10,000 people part, and activist Panumas Singprom.

The two protesters, who broadcast the moment they were arrested live on social media, are charged with having violated a decree related to the state of emergency decree imposed by the government to fight the pandemic and with the crime of sedition, among others, that could land them with up to seven years in prison.

Eleven other organizers of the almost daily pro-democracy protests have been detained since Aug. 7, and all face similar charges, although they have all been released on bail pending trial.

The activists have denounced a police order issued at the end of July to arrest the 31 organizers of the youth protests that began on July 18.

“I am not afraid of getting arrested, even though I was one of the 31 people named in the police arrest warrant,” Tattep told Efe shortly before the protest on Aug. 16.

“But what worries me is that if we are all arrested, political movements in Thailand will not make any progress.”

Tattep and Panumas became known in Thailand when, in December last year, they kissed outside the Parliament building in Bangkok in a show of support for a proposed law to legalize same-sex marriage that was ultimately rejected.

The student protest movement that they are behind is calling for limits to be placed on the powers enjoyed by the army, which has taken power in 13 separate coups d’etat since the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1932, as well as the monarchy, which is protected by some of the world’s strictest lese-majeste laws that punish anyone who criticises or insults the institution or royal family with up to 15 years in prison.

The protests have also targeted prime minister Prayut Chan-ocha, a former general who led the 2014 military coup and who was elected head of the government in a 2019 election that has been described by detractors, opposition parties and international observers as rigged and non-transparent. EFE-EPA


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