250-km pro-democracy protest march to reach Bangkok

A group of pro-democracy protestors walking to Bangkok to demand bail for incarcerated demonstrators was to reach the outskirts of Bangkok Friday, 17 days after leaving Nakhon Ratchasima.

The 247.5-kilometre march, dubbed “Walk Through the Sky: Bring Back the People’s Power,” started from the Thao Suranaree statue in Muang district of Korat on February 16.

The march is to demand bail for nine detained people including four protest leaders from Ratsadon, namely Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Patiwat “Morlum Bank” Saraiyeam.

“They have been held in prison without bail since February 9 while five other protestors are also being held since February 24,” said Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa from the main student-led protest group, Ratsadon. The four are facing charges under Article 112, which prohibits lese-majeste, he told Thai Enquirer as the group passed through Ayutthaya on Wednesday.

The walking group is led by Pai, and by Nimit Thienudom from the People Go Network.

“The ignition and the fuel for the walk is simple. They have started to incarcerate our friends while denying their bail requests, which made it impossible for us to do nothing,” Pai said.   

Ahead of their arrival, the police prevented a group of protesters in Khlong Luang from hanging up a welcome sign in support of the march on a crossover in Pathumthani. The police said it might be against the public cleanliness act.

The four detained protest leaders are also facing charges under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, for alleged sedition. Their charges relate to organizing pro-democracy political rallies.

Their bail requests have been denied by the court four times now, on the grounds that they will create more unrest if released.

A group of 126 academics from Chiang Mai, Thammasat, Chulalongkorn and Walailak universities along with lawyers and human rights activists in February issued a statement to condemn the court’s decision to denied bail for the protest leaders, who they said are peaceful.

Their latest request offered a bail surety of 500,000 per person but was turned down Thursday. Lese-majeste carries a jail sentence of three to 15 years while sedition carries a jail sentence of up to seven years.

The other five individuals incarcerated without bail were volunteer guards from another protest group, We Volunteer, who allegedly attacked a police detention vehicle at the Prachachuen Police Station on October 30.

The vehicle was holding Penguin and another protest leader from Ratsadon, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, at the time.

Mike is now walking with Pai to call for the release of the five protestors, Nattanon “Frank” Chaimahabut, Tawat Sukprasert, Sakchai Tangjitsadutdee, Somkid Tosoi and Chalueay Ekkasak, who have been charged with conspiracy to conduct violence in violation of Article 215 of the Criminal Code.

Under the law, if any of the conspirators is found to have been armed then all associates shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding 4,000 baht, or both.

Pai said he understands what the detained protestors are going through since he has been imprisoned for lese-majeste before. He spent two years and six months in prison for sharing a BBC Thai’s biography of the monarch on Facebook.

“When I was in jail, there were people outside who were protesting for my release so now that my friends are in jail by an unfair law while being denied their right to political expression, I must come out and do something,” he said.

The People Go Network was one of the groups that have marched to protest against Pai’s incarceration in 2016.

“A walk is a type of a fight against injustice and we choose to fight this way in order to peacefully spread the words about police brutality, the uses of various laws to silence dissidents, the plights of the poor and the mismanagement of the government’s covid-relief measures and natural resources,” he added.

The walk-in protest group is expected to reach Zeer Rangsit in Pathumthani around 5:30 pm on Friday.

They will camp out near the department store before the planned march to Bang Khen Intersection on Saturday.

Their march will end on Sunday at Democracy Monument.

Additional reporting and photos by James Wilson

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