[Update-1] Government move against protest leaders with warrants and arrests; students vow retaliation

Thailand’s military-backed government issued arrest warrants for several anti-government protest leaders including students on Friday. Several, including prominent human rights lawyer Anon Numpa, were taken into custody by police, as students plan retaliatory protest and strikes at what they say were unprovoked actions by security forces.

Earlier in the day, Anon had posted on Facebook a picture of an arrest warrant issued against him following his participation in a pro-democracy protest in July.

The warrant cited the following reasons for his arrest: gathering over ten people, using speeches and forces to disturb the peace, organizing an activity that could lead to a possible outbreak of the coronavirus, obstructing public spaces, and using speakers without official permission.

His Facebook post had a caption that read, “I have been arrested” or ผมโดนจับแล้ว. A spokesman at the Bangkok Metropolitan Police confirmed to Thai Enquirer Anon’s arrest but declined to specify the reason.

Activists said that a second prominent activist, Nutchanon “Mike” Payakaphan has been arrested but police have not confirmed his arrest to Thai Enquirer.

Police say they have also issued arrest warrants against other protest leaders including prominent student leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak.

Retaliatory measures

Parit told Thai Enquirer that he would not be turning himself in and that he viewed the charges as politically motivated and illegitimate.

“I will not turn myself in as the charges are illegitimate,” he said by phone.

According to Parit and other student protest leaders Thai Enquirer has spoken to, the students will be looking to organize counter-protest against the arrest of their leaders as soon as possible.

“I want people to come out and protest this injustice, leading a protest should not result in arrests,” Parit said.

Despite promises by the government that they would not be using a National Security Act to prosecute student protesters and their promise to use the act just to control the coronavirus pandemic, the government seems to have gone back on their word.

The government has, in the past, used the security law to arrest student leaders for violation of a government order on large gatherings. The government said that the students were risking the spread of Covid-19 by holding large scale protests even though there have been no cases in Thailand outside of state quarantine in over two months.

Student protests have erupted throughout the country for the past two months with students calling for a charter amendment (read here) and fresh elections. The government has not officially responded.

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