Thai police arrest 14 students in anti-junta protest

Thai police arrest 14 students in anti-junta protest
Visitors and tourists enjoy drinks and the view from a rooftop bar in central Bangkok May 20, 2015 file photo. When Thailand's army seized power in a bloodless coup, much of the business establishment quietly cheered them on.
PHOTO: Reuters

BANGKOK - Police in Thailand on Friday arrested 14 students who had been protesting against the ruling junta, in defiance of a ban on public gatherings.

Thailand's military overthrew the previous democratic government last year after months of political unrest. The junta has since stifled dissent, barring political gatherings and debate.

The students, part of a coalition of university groups from around Thailand, held street demonstrations for three days in Bangkok this week to protest against the junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order.

"We've caught them all, according to the arrest warrants, and the next step is to tell them what they are accused of," Wutthichai Suponthawit, deputy superintendent of the capital's Samran Rat police station, told Reuters.

"We will now jail them."

Thailand's army chief accused some politicians of backing the student groups, but did not identify them.

"They are the group that is not satisfied with the administration of this government," General Udomdej Sitabutr told reporters earlier on Friday.

Around 80 students held a 10-hour protest outside a Bangkok police station on Wednesday, brandishing signs that read "Peace" and "We want power for the people" or banners reading "No coup".

Last month, 40 student activists were arrested after holding peaceful rallies on the first anniversary of the May 22 coup.

All were released but at least 11 were charged with violating the junta's ban on political activity and face trial in military court, with jail terms of a year, if found guilty.

The 2014 coup ousted the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand's first female prime minister and a scion of the Shinawatra political family.

Thailand has been bitterly divided for a decade between supporters of Yingluck and her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was himself ousted by the army in 2006, and the traditional establishment in the capital and the south.

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Prayut Chan-O-Cha
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