Thailand makes rare arrest of prominent protest leader Sakoltee

BANGKOK (AFP) - Thai authorities have made a rare arrest of one of the leaders of the country's anti-government protest movement on charges including insurrection and inciting unrest, an official said on Saturday.

Former opposition lawmaker Sakoltee Phattiyakul is one of only a handful of prominent protesters to have been detained despite dozens of arrest warrants. He was arrested at around midnight at Bangkok's main airport while returning from a trip overseas.

"He faces five serious accusations including insurrection, trespassing, inciting unrest and obstruction of an election," said Mr Tarit Pengdith, director-general of the Ministry of Justice's Department of Special Investigation (DSI).

Sakoltee was later released by the Criminal Court in Bangkok on bail of 600,000 baht (S$23,358) on the condition that he does not leave the country or incite unrest.

Leaders of the anti-government movement have flouted arrest warrants to deliver fiery speeches, lead marches, block roads and besiege government buildings in their bid to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Sakoltee led protesters to storm the building of broadcaster Thai PBS late last year.

The movement wants to replace Ms Yingluck's government with an unelected "people's council" that would oversee reforms to tackle alleged corruption and rein in the political dominance of her billionaire family.

Top protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban faces several arrest warrants linked to the rallies including for treason, as well as murder charges linked to a deadly crackdown on opposition demonstrations in 2010 when he was deputy prime minister.

Ms Yingluck meanwhile is accused of dereliction of duty linked to a loss-making rice subsidy scheme and the improper transfer of a senior civil servant. Both cases could lead to her removal from office within weeks.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.