18 detained protesters deny charges

18 detained protesters deny charges

Pro-democracy protesters converge outside the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road on Saturday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Pro-democracy protesters converge outside the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road on Saturday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

All 18 detained protesters have denied charges pressed against them in connection with fresh rallies against the government on Saturday.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights on Sunday posted a Facebook message saying the activists, including Piyarat "Toto" Chonthep, denied the charges after being informed by police.

They were under detention at the Border Patrol Police Region 1 barracks in Thanya Buri district in Pathum Thani. Two of them who were underaged were temporarily released pending an ordered to appear before the Central Juvenile and Family Court later on Sunday.

Mr Piyarat, who is a leader of the We Volunteer (WeVo) group, and other pro-democracy protesters were arrested at the Major Ratchayothin shopping complex on Saturday.

Their charges including breaching the emergency decree and illegally assembling for criminal acts.

Police alleged that they planned to use firearms to attack police and instigate violence during the rallies. A search during their arrests allegedly found objects that could be used as weapons, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

Police arrested more than 18 activists. They were whisked off in three vehicles.

WeVo guards then tried to block and then storm the police vehicles, helping those in two of them to escape. 

The Border Patrol Police Region 1 office in Pathum Thani, where 18 protesters are detained. (Thai Lawyers for Human Rights photo)

Pol Lt Gen Pakkapong Pongpetra, the Metropolitan Police Bureau chief, said on Sunday police were hunting the guards who damaged the vehicles and helped others escape apprehension.

The city police commander said a search at the arrest site found 30 smoke bombs and one shield, among other items.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said all 18 refused to sign statements acknowledging the allegations against them.

Garbage blaze

The rallies were held in four locations on Saturday, with attention focused outside the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road. Under the red banners of the newly formed ReDem (Restart Democracy) group, a boisterous but peaceful crowd, estimated to number about 1,000 by police, gathered outside the courthouse and set a small, symbolic pile of garbage ablaze and repeatedly called on authorities to "ploy pheun rao" (release our friends).

They were referring to Arnon Nampa, Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat “Mor Lam Bank” Saraiyaem, who were denied bail after being charged with lese-majeste under Section 112 of the Criminal  Code. Protesters were angered by what they viewed as double standards after yellow-shirt leaders of the PDRC were granted bail after being arrested for terrorism and insurrection, but no objects were thrown into the courthouse compound.

Behind the railing was a high roll of barbed wire and at least one truck loaded with water cannon. However, police did not go further than filming the demonstrators through the railing and using loudspeakers to ask the crowd to stay off the pavement, which they said was reserved for journalists. The road was closed to traffic with many protesters sitting on the tarmac.

Another protest will be held at Democracy Monument on Sunday by marchers of the People Go Network group, led by activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, also known as Pai Dao Din.

They call for the release of the detained protest leaders and the abolishment of the lese majese law among other demands.

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