Thailand: Members of Movement Plotted to Overthrow Junta, Officials Say

Somchai Kwankijsawet
160819-TH-detainees-1000.jpg Police escort alleged members of the United Front for Democratic Revolution Party to the Crime Suppression Department in Bangkok to face charges related to political gatherings and criminal syndicates, Aug. 19, 2016.

Thai police Friday charged 15 people for allegedly belonging to a movement that was trying to overthrow the nation’s military-controlled government.

The 15 alleged members of the United Front for Democratic Revolution Party were charged at the Crime Suppression Bureau in Bangkok with defying the junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more people and forming a “crime syndicate,” said Maj. Gen. Chayapol Chatchaidej, the superintendent of the police’s counter-crime planning division.

People convicted of the latter offense can face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 20,000 baht (U.S. $577).

“Initially, there are no links to the bombings in the south, but they intended to overthrow the government,” Chayapol told reporters, referring to 11 bombings that rocked tourist hotspots across southern Thailand last week, killing four people and injuring at least 34 more.

Immediately after the bombings on Aug. 11-12, Thai authorities said these were likely politically motivated and linked to a constitutional referendum, in which a majority of voted earlier this month for a draft charter backed by the junta.

The 15 were taken into custody after the attacks, but Chatchaidej did not detail what actions they had taken to overthrow the regime or what constituted a criminal syndicate.

“This group used to be part of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), but splintered in dissent to form the United Front for Democratic Revolution Party,” Col. Burin Thongprapai, a legal officer for the Thai junta, told reporters.

Earlier, Burin said that investigators had found an AK-47 rifle while searching the house of one of the suspects.

“The charges are unreasonable and unclear,” Winyat Chartmontri, a lawyer representing the 15, told BenarNews in a telephone interview.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan defended the proceedings.

“If the accusation is unfounded, why did the court issue the warrants? They did (illegal activities) all along,” Prawit told reporters on Friday without elaborating.


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