Police vow more protest arrests after nearly 100 detained

Police vow more protest arrests after nearly 100 detained

A pro-democracy protester flashes the three-finger salute while she is detained by police officers in front of Government House during a rally demanding the release of arrested protest leaders and the abolition of the 112 lese majeste law, in Bangkok on Sunday. (Reuters photo)
A pro-democracy protester flashes the three-finger salute while she is detained by police officers in front of Government House during a rally demanding the release of arrested protest leaders and the abolition of the 112 lese majeste law, in Bangkok on Sunday. (Reuters photo)

Police on Monday vowed to arrest more people participating in anti-government protests after detaining nearly 100 at a demonstration a day earlier, citing a law restricting gatherings to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Another protest demanding the release of jailed activists is planned for late Monday afternoon, raising prospects for another confrontation with activists calling for an end to military dominance of politics and reform of the powerful monarchy.

"We have prepared troops to maintain order," Pol Maj Gen Piya Tavichai, deputy head of the Bangkok police, told reporters.

Gen Piya said 99 people were arrested on Sunday in front of Government House, saying the arrests were necessary under a law forbidding large public gatherings to prevent coronavirus spread.

The mostly student-led movement has taken aim at the military for entrenching its role in civilian politics, especially since Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha seized power in a 2014 coup when he was army chief.

The activists say elections held in 2019 were under rules designed to cement Gen Prayut's hold on power. He and his coalition government allies say the vote was free and fair.

Gen Prayut on Monday told reporters the weekend arrests were justified.

"You have to look at the law. If I don't take action, there will be disruption in traffic. We are just taking back space. There have been many warnings," said Gen Prayut.

Dozens of people have been detained at protests in recent months under disease control and public order laws, but Sunday's protest represented one of the largest number of arrests at a single rally.

Additionally, at least nine leaders of the movement are jailed pending trial under a law against insulting the monarchy, which carries a maximum 15-year penalty.

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