2 top Thai pro-democracy protesters released from jail

BANGKOK (AP) — Two top leaders of Thailand’s pro-democracy protest movement were released from jail on Monday after police agreed that they no longer needed to be detained for investigation.

Bangkok Criminal Court last Thursday ordered Arnon Nampha and Panupong Jadnok to be held in Bangkok Remand Prison at the request of police, who arrested them for allegedly violating the terms under which they had been previously freed on bail.

They had been granted bail last month on charges including sedition arising from a protest rally in Bangkok in July. Police said their continued involvement in demonstrations violated the terms of their release.

Both men have remained defiant, and again on Monday said they would continue their public protest activities.

Noraseth Nanongtoom, a lawyer for the legal aid group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, said the two confirmed that they intended to take the stage again at a rally scheduled for Sept. 19 that is expected to be the biggest so far. Protest organizers say more than 10,000 people attended an Aug. 16 protest.

Police canceled their remand request at the court’s suggestion, the court said in a statement. It said the police request was withdrawn because their investigation had progressed enough that the two no longer needed to be held. They could have been held for up to 48 days without formal charges.

The protest movement, spearheaded by students, has declared three core demands: holding new elections, amending the constitution and ending the intimidation of government critics.

It says the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha came to power undemocratically, Prayuth, then army commander, staged a coup in 2014 and became prime minister again last year after a general election under rules that were widely seen as favorable to him.

Arnon and several other activists have pushed harder, calling for far-reaching reforms to the country’s monarchy. The royal institution has traditionally been sacrosanct and is protected by a lese majeste law that provides for up to 15 years’ imprisonment for defaming the monarchy.

Arnon and Panupong are among more than 30 protest leaders who have been arrested.

The two were told last week they could apply again for bail, and Panupong was offered it on the spot by the court, but they decided to accept their detention.