Thailand: Nine charged over 2013 anti-government protests

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Thailand on Wednesday charged nine protest leaders over anti-government demonstrations in 2013 and 2014 that led to the ousting of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and a consequential military coup.

Those arrested were members of now-disbanded Thailand’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), including Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister, who played a major role in the movement, encouraging protests with speeches and leading daily marches that saw Thailand’s capital Bangkok come to a standstill.

The nine protest leaders face eight charges for their roles in the protests, including insurrection, sedition, and obstructing a 2014 general election, said Prayut Bejraguna, a deputy spokesman for the office of the attorney-general.

Suthep and Chumpon Julsai, a former Democrat MP, also face an additional terrorism charge, Prayut added.

Read more: Thai parliament votes military coup leader as new prime minister

Accused plead not guilty

The nine men pleaded not guilty to the charges, Suthep told reporters after the court session, adding that each was granted bail of 600,000 baht ($18,948, €15,380) and is banned from travelling overseas until the end of the trial.

“Whether we are right or wrong, we will fight it out in the justice process … because we believe in Thailand’s justice system,” Suthep said.

“We will insist on pushing to reform Thailand, no matter at what cost.”

The 2013-2014 protests saw violence that left 28 dead and caused conflict in the country which the army said justified its overthrow of the government. It was the 12th successful takeover since 1932.

The PDRC and its supporters protested for seven months, aiming to remove Yingluck, and her billionaire brother, ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who had gained huge support among the rural poor in the country’s north and northeast.

The PDRC claimed that Yingluck was a puppet for her brother, who was forced out by the military in 2006 and is currently in self-exile to avoid serving jail time for a 2008 corruption conviction.

Read more: Yingluck Shinawatra trial: Former Thai PM handed five-year sentence

Yingluck fled Thailand last August, ahead of a verdict in a negligence trial that eventually found her guilty and gave her a five-year jail term.

Prayut said Thailand’s attorney-general planned to file charges against 34 other PDRC leaders who did not show up in court on Wednesday.

The case comes ahead of elections set to take place in late 2018.

law/es (AFP, Reuters)