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Thai police detain two leaders of student protests

BANGKOK, Aug 7 – Thai police on Friday night detained two pro-democracy activists in Bangkok over a demonstration last month as leaders of the student protest movement vowed to escalate their anti-government demonstrations.

Security officials physically carried human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, 35, and student activist Panupong Jasnok, 23, out of the Criminal Court in Bangkok as dozens of supporters shouted “officials must serve the people” in protest.

At another protest on Monday, Anon drew national attention by calling for reforms of Thailand’s powerful monarchy, a highly sensitive topic, but police said the arrest warrant served on Friday did not refer to that speech but to an earlier protest on July 18 for breaching internal security by “raising unrest and disaffection”.

The court declined just before midnight to process a police request to jail the two men for 12 days of pre-trial detention, with an official stating that the police proceedings were filed too late.

Police said they would hold the two overnight and return with their petition at Bangkok’s Criminal Court on Saturday morning.

Protesters, led by student groups, are returning to Thailand’s streets calling for the ouster of the government of 2014 coup-maker Prayuth Chan-ocha after a disputed general election last year that activists say was engineered to ensure his hold on power.

“Today, we arrested these two men and we sent them to the court to ask them to be jailed, but because it is after the court’s working hour, the court sent them to be detained by us,” Police Colonel Purit Jintranan of Huai Khwang police station told reporters.

Weeranan Huadsri, a lawyer for Anon, told Reuters his client denied all charges.

Earlier on Friday, leaders of several student groups held a news conference at Democracy Monument to launch a wider “Free People” movement calling for new elections and planning a large protest for Aug. 16. (Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat, Editing by Robert Birsel and Howard Goller)

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