Thailand student charged over anti-coup protest in Bangkok

Thai pro-democracy activists demonstrate outside Pathumwan Police Station in Bangkok as they mark the one-year anniversary of Thailand's military coup on May 22, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

BANGKOK (AFP) - A Thai student was on Wednesday charged over a peaceful anti-coup protest in Bangkok last month, her lawyer said, as dozens of activists gathered in support of other demonstrators summoned by the police.

The May 22 rally marking a year since Thailand's generals seized power was a rare act of defiance against the junta, quashed when the police dragged away and held overnight dozens of students at the protest.

Supporters of seven activists expected to face charges over the protest gathered outside a police station in downtown Bangkok on Wednesday, cheering them on and holding up photos of the protesters being pulled away by the police last month. An eighth anti-coup protester was charged over the May rally at the city's military court.

Natchacha Kongudom, 21, was charged for violating a junta order banning political gatherings of more than five people, said Mr Pawinee Chumsri, one of the lawyers representing the activists. "She was arrested this morning while at hospital, taken to the military court and charged," Pawinee told AFP. The charge carries a penalty of up to six months in prison and a fine of 10,000 baht (S$400).

The communications arts student is being detained at a prison in Bangkok but has been granted bail and is expected to be released later Wednesday, Mr Pawinee added.

Earlier on Wednesday, which marks 83 years since the end of an absolute monarchy in Thailand, the police said three students were arrested and briefly detained for laying flowers at the capital's Democracy Monument while another was arrested over a Facebook post marking the date.

Meanwhile the seven other activists, including four students, were locked in a stand-off with authorities, refusing to enter the police station unless they could also press charges against police for their treatment at the rally last month.

Thailand's military seized power in a May 2014 coup, ending months of sometimes violent protests against the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

It was the latest twist in nearly a decade of bitter political conflict pitting supporters of the Shinawatra family in the northern provinces against the largely Bangkok-based royalist elite, including large portions of the military.

Yingluck's older brother Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup, but parties allied to the Shinawatras have won every election since 2001.

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