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Thai police summon 5 activists over anti-government protest

BANGKOK (AP) – Thai police said Monday that they have issued summonses to five activists who spoke at an anti-government rally in front of army headquarters last month, accusing them of violating a coronavirus emergency decree that prohibits public gatherings.

The growing protests have emerged as the most serious threat to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army general whose administration they accuse of incompetence and corruption.

“They are being called in to hear charges as their rally breached the emergency decree,” said Police Col. Prasopchoke Aiempinij. “No other charges are being considered at the moment.”

Among those being called in is Arnon Nampha, a civil rights lawyer who is out on bail after being charged twice following anti-government protests on July 18 and Aug. 3, with accusations including sedition and violating the public assembly ban. He said that he would report to police on Tuesday along with the other activists summoned over a July 20 rally.

Three of the other activists – Panupong Jadnok, Parit Chiwarak and Suwanna Tanlek – are also out on bail after being charged with sedition and other offenses related to the July 18 protest.

The student-led protest movement has declared three core demands: holding new elections, amending the constitution and ending the intimidation of critics of the government.

As the army chief in 2014, Prayuth led a coup ousting an elected government. He then served as prime minister in the military regime that succeeded it, and returned as premier 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.

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