Senior Thai protest leader arrested for flouting law
Bangkok: A senior anti-government protest leader was arrested today and charged with sedition for violating Thailand’s emergency law, the first to be held as part a crackdown on the opposition seeking ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Sonthiyarn Chuenruethainaitham, owner and director of T news agency, was arrested from a hotel here under warrants issued by Thai Criminal Court, escalating the country’s three-month-old political crisis.
He is among 19 leaders against whom arrests warrants have been issued.
Sonthiyarn, the former leader of now-defunct yellow-shirt movement, was charged with sedition.
“He will be detained at the police headquarters for seven days for interrogation, and police will then apply to the court to extend his detention for another 30 days,” Department of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Tarit Pengdith said.
The government also vowed to arrest 18 other protest leaders.
The opposition Democrat Party leader Suthep Thaugsuban the secretary general of the Peoples Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) which has been holding protests across Bangkok calling for Yingluck to step down is also facing arrest.
Anti-government demonstrators have occupied major intersections in Bangkok and also blocked off several government ministries to press their demand for Yingluck to make way for an unelected “People’s Council” to carry out reforms aimed at curbing the political dominance of the Shinawatra clan.
Chalerm Yoobamrung, director of the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CPMO), said Sonthiyarn was the only wanted leader who was residing in a condominium. The 18 other leaders are being shielded by taking refuge in the protest sites.
Chalerm also warned Suthep against disrupting government workers.
“I want to tell Suthep that I will no longer tolerate what he has done, laying siege to many government offices and chasing away officials who wanted to work. That’s beyond acceptable and I will use the law to handle the situation,” he said.
The CMPO is preparing to seek arrest warrants for a further 13 leading members of the PDRC for allegedly violating the emergency decree. If approved, this would bring the total number of warrants for protest leaders to 32.