Thai police arrest 14 anti-junta student activists
The pro-democracy campaigners from universities in Bangkok and the country’s northeast are among the few public faces of dissent in Thailand since the military seized power last year.
Their arrests come after a peaceful protest at the capital’s Democracy Monument Thursday when the students made impassioned speeches and sang songs urging an end to junta rule, cheered on by dozens of supporters.
Police unusually held back from the rally, which also drew dozens of journalists, but arrested the students late Friday afternoon hours after they encircled a house where they had been seeking refuge from arrest.
Political protests are banned under the regime alongside any criticism of the junta.
“Fourteen students have been arrested on charges of illegal assembly and are now at the police station where they will be formally charged,” said Pawinee Chumsri, one of the lawyers representing the activists.
The charge carries a penalty of up to six months in prison and a fine of 10,000 baht ($300).
The students arrested Friday, part of groups staging small but symbolic acts of protest against the military regime, were involved in anti-coup protests last month marking one year since the army takeover.
Those protests in Bangkok were quashed when police dragged away and held overnight dozens of students at the protest in angry scenes.
Seven of the 14 arrested study in the northeastern city of Khon Kaen. They also staged an anti-coup rally last month and have been dubbed the “Magnificent Seven” on social media.
On Wednesday one of the Bangkok activists from last month was charged with illegal assembly for that protest.
Thailand’s generals claim the May 2014 coup was essential to restore order to the country after months of often violent protests against the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.
But opponents say it was the latest manoeuvre by Bangkok-based royalist elites, backed by large swathes of the military, to scupper democracy in the kingdom.
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