The Thai junta has filed charges against seven pro-democracy activists who led a 100-strong rally calling for elections, authorities said Tuesday, as the regime seeks to smother dissent over its latest poll postponement.
The activists, who organized the demonstration in central Bangkok on Saturday, are accused of “inciting unrest” and violating a junta ban on gatherings of more than five people that has been in place since the 2014 coup.
The rally, which drew an unusually large crowd, was held to protest against the military government’s move last week to delay elections, which were scheduled for November, until 2019.
“They have incited the unrest and incited people not to obey the law,” read the charges filed by the junta’s lawyers on Monday. They carry up to seven years in prison.
The group includes a prominent human rights lawyer and several high-profile activists who have been rare voices of dissent under the junta, Thailand’s most authoritarian government in a generation.
Police have summoned the group to report by Feb. 2, said a senior officer who requested anonymity.
The junta has repeatedly reneged on promised poll dates since its power grab.
After nearly four years, anger at prolonged military rule is growing across the political spectrum, with politicians on both sides calling for a swift return to democracy.
The junta is also battling mounting public anger over a graft scandal that has engulfed a top general with a penchant for luxury watches.
Deputy premier Prawit Wongsuwan is now facing a corruption probe after online sleuths dug up photos of some 25 high-end watches worth US$1.2 million that he allegedly failed to report when declaring his assets.
Prawit, who has been dubbed “the Rolex General,” denies any corruption and says the watches were borrowed from friends.