Thai police charged seven pro-democracy activists Tuesday with sedition and defying a ban on public gatherings for leading a hundred-strong demonstration in downtown Bangkok that demanded the junta hold elections in November and not postpone them till 2019.
The seven who belong to an activist organization, the “Democracy Restoration Group,” violated a military-government order prohibiting public political gatherings of five or more people by organizing the protest over the weekend, Deputy National Police Chief Gen. Srivarah Rangsipramanakul told reporters.
“The NCPO was a plaintiff, filing a complaint with the Pathumwan station police to charge the activist leaders. The next legal step is to summon them to hear the charges,” Srivarah said, referring to the junta by its official acronym, the National Council for Peace and Order.
“We will investigate whether there is someone who finances them to hold anti-government activities,” Srivarah said. He added that police had a suspect in mind, but he declined to reveal a name.
On Saturday, the group staged its demonstration at the corner of a busy metro station in Bangkok’s Pathumwan district, where participants repeatedly chanted “elections.”
The demonstration followed on the heels of public comments by two deputy prime ministers who indicated that national polls – which Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha had previously pledged to hold in November 2018 – could be postponed again, possibly till early next year. One of the deputies cited delays in passing laws that are required for setting up elections.
Before last week’s comments by Prayuth’s deputies, the NCPO postponed elections on at least four occasions since the military seized power in a coup that toppled a civilian government in May 2014, although junta leaders had vowed to put Thailand back on a path to democracy.
“The elections could be held in February next year. The inability to set a clear date for elections is due to the junta’s lack confidence that military-friendly political parties could gain the most seats,” Thitipol Pakdeewanich, a lecturer in political science at Ubon Ratchathani University, told BenarNews.
Full story: BenarNews
Wilawan Watcharasakwet and Nontarat Phaicahroen
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