Student leader arrested ahead of rally

Student leader Parit Chiwarak was arrested on Friday as tensions rise ahead of a major pro-democracy rally planned for Sunday in Bangkok.

The arrest took place as the Thammasat University student prepared to join an anti-government event in Nonthaburi. Police picked Mr Parit up by the arms and legs to drag him into a car after he refused to go.

Dozens of onlookers used their phones to take videos that were posted to Twitter, where #SaveParit started trending instantly, attracting 1.6 million tweets as of 9.30pm.

 

He was taken to the Samran Rat police station where he faces charges including sedition, assault and holding an event that could spread a disease. Dozens of supporters were gathering outside the station in the rain on Friday night to demand Mr Parit’s release. They cheered when he appeared briefly in a second-storey window and waved to them.

The allegations stem from a rally staged by the Free Youth movement at Democracy Monument on July 18. It was the first major protest against the government since the easing of restrictions imposed to stem the coronavirus outbreak.



Mr Parit, known by his nickname Penguin, is also reported to be facing a lese majeste charge but it was not included in the charge sheet on Friday.

The Free Youth and Free People movements issued a statement demanding the immediate release of the student activist, saying the police action underlined the intention of authorities to intimidate critics of the government.


The political temperature has been rising all week as students continue to press their demands, which include House dissolution, the end of intimidation against critics of the government, and the drafting of a new constitution.

The potential for confrontation has been increasing since Monday, when thousands who rallied at Thammasat University heard speakers issue an unprecedented 10-point manifesto calling for reform of the monarchy under the constitution.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said that while people had the right to free expression, dragging the monarchy into the debate was out of line.

Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongreangkit said earlier on Friday that the protesters’ demands should be on the table for talks, as crackdowns will not solve the country’s political problems.

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Writer: Gary Boyle
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