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Thai Activist Lawyer Arrested for Monarchy Protest

FILE - Thai human rights lawyer Anon Nampa is being escorted to a police station in Bangkok, Thailand, Aug. 7, 2020.
FILE - Thai human rights lawyer Anon Nampa is being escorted to a police station in Bangkok, Thailand, Aug. 7, 2020.

Thai police arrested activist and lawyer Anon Nampa Wednesday for his role in an August 3 protest where he called for reform to the monarchy.

Anti-government protests have been raging in the Southeast Asian kingdom since mid-July, but some demonstrators have set their sights on the monarchy. Anon, 36, is the taboo-breaking activist at the forefront of calls for reform.

“We dream of a monarchy that coexists with democracy,” Anon told a crowd of over 10,000 at the Aug. 3 protest in Bangkok, Reuters reported.

Until then, protesters had focused their efforts on the Thai government, calling for the resignation of the cabinet, the dissolution of parliament and the drafting of a new constitution.

Thailand’s strict lese-majeste law threatens those that speak against the monarchy with up to 15 years in prison. The law ostensibly protects the royal institution from defamation, but has also virtually criminalized criticism of any kind.

After Anon’s path-breaking remarks, student groups compiled a 10-point list of reforms to King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy.

A police spokesman warned student protesters last week to abide by conventions in their demands.

“To whomever is going to the protest, I believe everyone knows what can and cannot be done,” Col. Kissana Phathanacharoen said, according to The New York Times. “Things that you say will be tied to you. There will be evidence kept for the future.”

Anon, who has several other cases pending against him, was charged with sedition, a Thai police officer told Reuters. The charge carries a term of up to seven years. This was the human rights lawyer’s second arrest this month. He was freed on bail from the first at the time of Wednesday's arrest.

Police had warrants for Anon and five other activists, all present at the massive Aug. 3 protest. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader, has said that the king had requested there be no prosecutions under the lese-majeste laws for now.

Prayuth said that protesters should avoid the monarchy in their demands. He told reporters: “There are 67 million Thais. I believe the majority do not agree with the protesters.”

About 200 right-wing Thai activists launched a group Wednesday to counter the anti-government protests. Their counter-protests have so far drawn a few dozen people at most, Reuters reported.