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Thai police continue crackdown on pro-democracy activists

BANGKOK (AP) – Police in Thailand continued their crackdown on the country’s student-led protest movement on Wednesday, arresting two more activists on charges of sedition and several minor offenses.

Those arrested – Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree and James Panumas Singprom – are members of the Free Youth movement, a core part of a growing pro-democracy coalition that is demanding that new elections be called, the constitution be amended and harassment of critics of the government cease.

With Wednesday’s arrests, there now are 13 activists charged in connection with the recent protests. All those previously arrested have been freed on bail.

The arrests have done little to deter the activists, several of whom have returned to public protests even after their bail conditions could make them liable for rearrest. They have declared they will hold another major protest in September if their demands are not met.

The activists believe that the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha came to power illegitimately because it was elected under laws established under a military regime that seized control in a 2014 coup ousting an elected government.

Prayuth, who was the army chief at the time, led the coup and then served as prime minister in the military regime. He returned as prime minister after a general election last year. Laws guiding the 2019 election were widely seen as so heavily rigged in Prayuth’s favor that victory was all but guaranteed.

Wednesday’s arrests were related to a July 18 protest in Bangkok. A police charge sheet posted online by Tattep, one of the two arrested, listed his alleged offenses as sedition, violation of an emergency decree imposed to control the coronavirus, obstruction of public streets, using an electric sound amplifier in public without permission and violations of the disease control act and traffic law.

The protest movement has been spreading rapidly, especially among students, even at the high school level. The shows of sympathy even at some of the country’s elite schools, where students have displayed the movement’s three-finger salute during assemblies, have alarmed the country’s conservative establishment.

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