Two organizers of student protests in Thailand arrested, charged
Bangkok, Aug 7 (efe-epa).- Thai Police arrested two of the organizers of the student demonstrations Friday in Bangkok, called in recent weeks to demand democratic and constitutional reforms in the country.
The detainees are Anon Nampa, lawyer and activist, and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, student, and they face accusations of having violated the state of emergency imposed by the government to combat the pandemic or the crime of sedition, among others, that could carry penalties of up to seven years in jail, according to police arrest warrants.
In addition, police issued arrest warrants against at least five other student leaders, on a day when students announced the call for a new mass demonstration at the iconic Democracy Monument in the Thai capital for Aug. 16.
The current wave of protests in Thailand, in which students call for the dissolution of parliament and democratic reforms to end the hegemony of the country’s pro-military and ultra-monarchical elites, began Jul. 18 in Bangkok and has since comprised numerous demonstrations in the capital and cities.
The last demonstration took place Monday in the capital and, wearing costumes and a Harry Potter theme, students called for an end to the interference of the army in the country’s political life, even criticized the monarchy by demanding that King Vajiralongkorn’s power be limited.
Criticism of the monarch is extremely rare in Thailand, due to the power of the royal family and the lese majeste law, one of the strictest in the world, which punishes insults to the king with penalties of up to 15 years in prison.
Two days after the demonstration, the Vice Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Apiwat Kantong filed a complaint for the crime of lese majeste against Anon Nampa, one of those arrested today, for his participation in Monday’s protest.
However, the use of the law has greatly diminished since King Vajiralongkorn acceded to the throne in 2016, following the death of his father Bhumibhol Aduljadej, at the behest of the monarch himself, according to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha. However, other laws, such as cybercrime, are being applied to silence criticism of the monarchy.
For his part, the head of the powerful Thai Army General Apirat Kongsompong, criticized the anti-government protesters Wednesday, accusing them of “hating the nation” and stating that “COVID-19 can be cured, but the disease of hating the nation is incurable.” EFE-EPA