Thai protesters demand the release of anti-government activists

BANGKOK: Dozens of protesters gathered in front of a Bangkok court on Saturday (Aug 8) to demand the release of activist leaders, vowing to escalate anti-government demonstrations with a call for a protest in the Thai capital.

Human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, 35, and student activist Panupong Jasnok, 23, were arrested on Friday and held overnight in connection with recent protests demanding greater democracy.

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“Whom does the court serve in this country?” Parit Cheewarak, a student leader widely known by the nickname Penguin, told 60 to 100 protesters in front of Bangkok’s Criminal Court.

“No matter how senior you are, you are not above the taxes that pay your salaries,” he said as police watched.

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Protesters have returned to Thailand’s streets to call for the ouster of the government of 2014 coup leader Prayuth Chan-o-cha after a disputed general election last year that activists say was engineered to ensure his hold on power.

Charges against Anon and Panupong include sedition and violating an emergency decree imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Anon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok (L) , pro-democracy students, and leaders of Thailand's recent
Anon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok (left) , pro-democracy students, and leaders of Thailand’s recent anti-government protests, are pictured after being detained, while being transferred to the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand on Aug 7, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Patipat Janthong)

The court declined to process a police request to jail the two men on Friday because it was filed too late. They were instead held overnight at a police station.

At a protest on Monday, Anon had called for reforms to the monarchy in an extremely rare public challenge to the powerful institution. He was not charged over that protest.