Thai prosecutor indicts 18 for anti-government protest

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A Thai prosecutor on Monday indicted 18 activists for their roles in anti-government rallies last year by a protest movement that has brought unprecedented challenges to the royal palace and military-dominated establishment.

The youth-led movement sprang up last year calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader, and reform of the powerful Thai monarchy, breaking a longstanding taboo under the country’s lese majeste law.

Those indicted included three prominent leaders charged with sedition and lese majeste during rallies in September, where tens of thousands escalated calls for monarchy reforms.

The other 15 protesters face trial for sedition and breaching a ban on public assembly.

“There is sufficient evidence that the accused have committed wrongdoing,” Chanchai Chalanonniwat, deputy spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General said.

If the court rejects their bail requests, all 18 could be jailed later on Monday until their trials.

Thailand’s lese majeste law prohibits criticism or insults against the king, and each offense is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Panupong Jadnok, one those charged with lese majeste, said his group was unfazed by the prospect of jail.

“The activities we have done are only the beginning, and it will go ahead even without us,” Panupong said.

Thailand’s youth movement has posed the biggest challenge so far to former army chief Prayuth, who they say engineered the rules of the 2019 election to keep himself in power.

Protesters also say the constitution gives the king too much power and demand that some of it be curbed.

Four other activist leaders are in jail awaiting trial over the same protests having been denied bail five times.

At least 63 people have been charged under lese majeste laws since November, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group.

Reuters

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