Asean lawmakers seek release of 15 Thai activists

Jakarta, May 23 (IANS) Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) on Wednesday urged Thai authorities to release 15 activists, who were arrested in Bangkok for participating in pro-democracy protests.

The activists were arrested on Tuesday and were accused of sedition and other charges, including violating a ban on political gathering of more than four persons, disobeying official orders to disperse and obstructing traffic, Efe news agency reported.

“The arrest of peaceful activists under draconian legislation, for simply expressing their opinions, exemplifies the entrenchment of intolerance under this regime,” APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament, said in a statement.

At least 15 protesters were earlier held during a peaceful rally demanding a return to democracy and better living conditions on the fourth anniversary of a military coup led by current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha.

Tuesday’s demonstration, one of the largest since the military seized power, had led to heavy police deployment and occurred a day after eight opposition leaders, among them three former ministers, were also accused of sedition and other charges.

Santiago said that the arrests were “a worrying signal of a junta that is unwilling to relinquish power any time soon”, and urged the military to ensure that fundamental freedoms were respected.

A month after the coup, Prayut Chan-ocha had promised to hold elections around the end of 2015. However, after being postponed several times, they are now expected to be held in 2019.

The Army had seized power in Thailand — which has witnessed 12 coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932 — with the promise of cracking down on corruption and bringing an end to an ongoing political crisis in the country.

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