Thai protesters vow more rallies as clampdown on activists persists

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Protesters gathered in front of a Bangkok court on Saturday, August 08, to demand the release of activist leaders who were arrested and held overnight. Demonstrators vowed 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 Jadnok, 23, were charged on Friday and held in connection with a series of protests demanding greater democracy.

They were released on bail on Saturday pending further investigation of the charges and on the condition that they do not re-offend.

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

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.

On his release outside the city’s criminal court, Anon said he would abide by the terms.

“Our demands for a re-writing of the constitution and a rejection of the coup are constitutional,” he told waiting reporters.

But the bail decision did not deter a flashmob of around 1,000 protesters taking over a major junction in the Thai capital, the largest since the contentious rally three weeks earlier.

Crowds cheered and applauded the speakers on stage in the pouring rain, many holding up the three-finger protest salute inspired by The Hunger Games movie franchise.

“If we burn, you burn with us,” said one placard, continuing the theme.

Another referenced the musical Les Miserables with a sign reading: “This is the song of angry people”.

“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.

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.

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. (Source: CNA)

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