Dozens of protesters gathered in front of Bangkok's Criminal Court on Saturday, August 8, to demand the release of two prominent anti-government activists arrested the previous day. Human rights lawyer Anon Nampa and student activist Panupong Jasnok were arrested on Friday, August 7, on charges related to recent anti-government protests. Protests were witnessed on Friday night outside the Bang Khen police station, where the pair were being held. When they gathered again on Saturday, the demonstrators threatened to escalate anti-government protests until both of the activists are released.
Further protests are expected over the near term, and a heightened security presence and localized transport disruptions are likely in the vicinity of any protests.
Anon drew attention during a protest on Monday, August 3, by calling for reforms of the monarchy, but police said the arrest referred to a speech at an earlier protest on July 18. Anon and Panupong are being charged with sedition and violating measures in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The arrests come amid an increase in anti-government protests witnessed in recent weeks. Public opposition has grown against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's over government spending, the dissolution of an opposition party, and many other factors. Numerous protests have been held across Thailand in recent weeks, with the largest so far on July 18, when around 2500 gathered in Bangkok to demand the government dissolve parliament and step down. Counter pro-democracy protests have also been held.
On August 8, student groups officially launched the Free People group, which has grown out of the previous Free Youth movement responsible for much of the recent protest activity. At their inauguration announcement, the Free People group stated they plan to hold another mass rally on August 16, although further details on location and timings have not been given at this stage.
Those in Bangkok and across Thailand are advised to monitor developments, avoid all protests as a precaution, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
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