BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai authorities arrested a student leader and legal adviser on Friday over anti-government protests, a legal group said, as young protesters said they wanted to expand their movement and escalate their anti-government activities.
Protesters, led by student groups, are returning to Thailand’s streets calling for the ousting of a conservative government led by pro-military politicians less than two years after a general election.
Police arrested Anon Nampa, 35, a human rights lawyer, and student leader Panupong Jadnok, who have both featured prominently in student-led rallies around the country since July 18, a lawyer from the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights told Reuters.
Anon called for reforms of Thailand’s powerful monarchy, a highly sensitive topic, at a protest on Monday, but the arrest warrant, seen by Reuters, did not refer to that.
It said that Anon was wanted for breaching article 116 of the criminal code by “raising unrest and disaffection” in a manner likely to cause a disturbance and lead to people breaking the law on July 18, when protesters gathered at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument.
It also said Anon breached the communicable disease control act over the protest, referring to coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings.
“The police showed Anon an arrest warrant in front of his house and took him to the police station,” Weeranan Huadsri, a lawyer from the lawyers’ rights group, told Reuters.
He said that student leader Panupong had also been arrested but did not give details.
Police spokesman Kritsana Pattanacharoen confirmed the two arrests.
“The arrest of protest leaders came as they brought out people to demonstrate, the police received complaints,” Kritsana said.
Student leaders urged supporters to gather in Bangkok on Friday evening to call for the release of the two.
Earlier on Friday, leaders of several student groups held a news conference at Democracy Monument to launch a “Free People” movement in the hope of getting people other than students to join their demonstrations to press for reform of a military-backed constitution and new elections.
They also said they were planning a big protest for Aug. 16.
(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Robert Birsel)