Leader of protest guards arrested one day before planned rally

The leader of We Volunteer (WeVo), a group of volunteers that keeps safety and decorum at anti-government rallies, was arrested on Tuesday by police just 24 hours before a planned large scale rally in front of the Crown Property Bureau.

Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, the leader of WeVo, was arrested by police in Bangkok for violating section 116 of the criminal code. The sedition charges carry a lengthy jail sentence of up to seven years.

Thai legal groups and other members of We Volunteer told Thai Enquirer that Piyarat will be transferred by police to Ubol Ratchathani where he faces similar charges and will likely mean that Piyarat will not be on the ground during Wednesday’s protest.

“We are unaware of what charges he will face, but it should be one of the cases in the past” Bas, a WeVo guard, told Thai Enquirer. He declined to give his full name citing safety concerns.

“This is a decisive move by the government to eliminate the most troublesome aspects of the protests including leaders who are in charge of the protester’s safety,” said Thai political analyst Arun Saronchai.

“By arresting Toto, the government has ensured more chaos at the protest and makes it easier for the security forces to deal with the protesters,” he told Thai Enquirer by phone.

Protest leaders had called for a rally at the Democracy Monument scheduled for Wednesday. The protesters will then march to the Crown Property Bureau to submit a petition to reform the royal institution.

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