Hundreds rally against detention of Thai protest leaders
BANGKOK — Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Thailand on Saturday, after police arrested two leading anti-government protest leaders in an apparent attempt to stifle growing political unrest.
Around 800 demonstrators packed a concourse near a shopping mall in central Bangkok to hear speeches denouncing the arrests and call for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to resign.
Tensions rose briefly as police officers moved in, telling the crowd they were only observing. They withdrew to a chorus of boos and chants for them to get out.
After a period of relative calm in Thailand’s fractious politics, the temperature is rising again with a wave of anti-government protests. Many have been held on school and university campuses in Bangkok and other cities.
They reflect a growing anger among many young people with the Prayuth administration. The former army chief took power in a 2014 coup, then retained stayed in office through an election in 2019 widely seen as heavily rigged in his favor.
On Friday police arrested Arnon Nampha, a civil rights lawyer and a leading figure in the burgeoning protest movement. He was charged with sedition and defying an emergency decree to control the coronavirus. Critics say the decree is being wielded against political dissidents.
They also detained a second activist, Panupong Jadnok. Both men appeared in court on Saturday in Bangkok and were granted bail.
The protestors are demanding the dissolving of parliament, new elections and an end to police intimidation. They have called for a big rally next weekend.
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