Dozens arrested in anti-coup protests in Thailand

Dozens arrested in anti-coup protests in Thailand

Anti-coup protests flared up in at least three locations in Bangkok and Khon Kaen yesterday to mark the first anniversary of the coup.

At least 48 people were arrested by military or police officers. Some were charged, others were warned and some had their attitudes "adjusted" before being released.

In Bangkok, members of the Resistant Citizen(s) group led by activists Pansak Srithep, Sirawitch Sereethiwat and Wannakiat Choosuwan were arrested by police shortly after they filed a lawsuit at the Criminal Court.

In the lawsuit they accuse Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and other junta leaders of violating Article 113 of the Criminal Act by staging the coup on May 22 last year and throwing out the 2007 Constitution, which they said was punishable by death. The three were later released without charge.

The Criminal Court scheduled a hearing on May 29 to rule on whether to accept the case.

In 1972, politician Uthai Pimchaichon, who later became president of the parliament, submitted a case to the Criminal Court to sue the then coup-makers Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn and Field Marshal Prapas Charusathien for treason.

However, the Criminal Court judges sentenced Uthai to a 10-year prison term for the same crime he accused the coup-makers of committing. He was subsequently released during the Sanya Thammasak administration without having to serve the full sentence.

The Resistant Citizen(s) group gathering began shortly before 3pm when a few group leaders appeared in front of the Lat Phrao MRT (underground rail) station.

The event, featuring 15 anti-coup activists, attracted an army of media, both domestic and abroad.

Pansak told reporters that the aim of the event was to communicate and establish an understanding with the public regarding the illegitimacy of the coup.

Although only 15 people joined the protest, Pansak said the number would have been much greater if the many who had earlier committed to attend it were not pressured to back down.

The group accused Prayut for using violence to scrap the constitution and overthrow the Pheu Thai government.

"This constitutes treason, as stipulated in Article 113 of the Criminal Code," Pansak said.

Prayut was also accused of sabotaging the country "and creating the ceaseless deterioration of the economy, society, politics, rights and the liberties of the people".

Resistant Citizen(s) comprises political activists, academics, students and relatives of protesters killed during protest crackdowns. They demand that power be returned to the people.

In Khon Kaen, 13 students from Khon Kaen University belonging to the Dao Din group were arrested and taken to the Sri Patcharin military camp at 1.40pm after they unfurled a large banner that read: "Oppose the Coup".

Seven students were accused of violating security orders under Article 44 of the junta-sponsored provisional charter, which grants absolute power to National Council for Peace and Order leader General Prayut. They were made to agree that they would refrain from committing any action that could cause divisions in society.

At 3pm, the students were taken to a police station and charged.

"We have always warned this group of students and meted out punishments from light to heavy," said Lieutenant Pitakphol Choosri, deputy director of civilian affairs at the Sri Patcharin military camp.

"But they repeatedly commit violations despite the fact that officers gave them a chance and regard them as the future of the country. We tried to warn them gently several times but they did not quit."

Elsewhere in Bangkok, nine members of a youth group for social democracy, YPD, were taken away by police for a 30-minute talk to have their attitudes adjusted after the group read a statement in public at the October 14 Monument in which they labelled the military dishonourable.

Police said the group did not ask for permission from the authorities before engaging in the activity. They were released after the talk and none were charged.

In the evening, 200 police officers in uniform were sent to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, where anti-coup protesters were scheduled to show up at 6pm. Some 30 students arrived and nine were arrested by police as of press time.

The rest - about 20 people - held hands and repeatedly shouted: "Release our friends." They were eventually arrested.

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