Thailand court charges 11 red shirt protest leaders with terrorism

[JURIST] A Thai court on Tuesday charged 11 protest leaders with terrorism in connection with Thailand's latest round of political violence [JURIST news archive], denying them bail. The men held leadership positions in the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship [party website, in Thai] opposition group known as red shirts [BBC backgrounder] that conducted anti-government protests spanning from March 12 to May 19. In issuing the order, the court indicated that the men posed a flight risk [Bangkok Post report] and that the severity of the charges played a role in its decision. Also Tuesday, the Thai government indicated it will study the possibility of extending amnesty [TNA report] to red shirt protesters convicted of minor offenses in order to facilitate reconciliation within the country. The offer of amnesty would not be given to the protesters charged with terrorism but could be extended to the 27 red shirt protesters who were sentenced to six months in prison [JURIST report] for violating the emergency decree prohibiting political gatherings of more than five people. The men charged with terrorism could face the death penalty if they are found guilty. Thailand remains under an emergency decree instituted in April [JURIST report] due to suspicion that red shirt protesters are planning additional rallies.

The protests came to an end [JURIST report] last month when red shirt leaders surrendered to police, which led to rioting, arson and the imposition of a curfew to protect citizens of Bangkok and its surrounding areas. The red shirts are supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was removed from power in 2006 [JURIST report]. The group was demanding that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [official website, in Thai] dissolve parliament and call new elections. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has expressed concern about the treatment of anti-government protesters [JURIST report] detained as a result of the protests, criticizing the broad powers given to Thai security forces under the emergency decree. Abhisit has promised to conduct an independent investigation [JURIST report] into the clashes between security forces and red shirt protesters, which resulted in more than 80 deaths.

 

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