7 Thai protest leaders freed from custody | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 11, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 11, 2008

7 Thai protest leaders freed from custody


Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a protest inside Government House in Bangkok yesterday. The leaders of mounting protests in Thailand were granted bail after turning themselves in on charges related to their campaign to topple the government, one of the leaders said.Photo: AFP

Seven leaders of a protest movement seeking to unseat Thailand's government were freed from police custody yesterday just hours after turning themselves in on criminal charges, as other opponents of the prime minister called for his resignation or a military coup.
The leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy surrendered after a court on Thursday dropped insurrection charges against them but retained charges of inciting a public disturbance and illegal assembly, which carry prison terms of up to seven and three years respectively.
Two other leaders of the alliance who had earlier been apprehended by police, Chamlong Srimuang and Chaiwat Sinsuwong, were freed Thursday. All were released on the guarantees of senators in lieu of bail.
Chamlong called on Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to resign and pave the way for an interim administration that would carry out political reforms and lead the country out of near-paralysis.
The alliance, which has led months of anti-government protests, seeks to roll back Western-style democracy, saying it makes the country susceptible to corruption.
Chamlong rejected calls by some, including former Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, to end the strife through military intervention.
"A military coup will only cause more damage to the country," Chamlong said.
The alliance had welcomed a military coup in 2006 that ousted then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra after spearheading similar protests against him.
Somchai said he was seeking the advice of prominent figures about what course to take when asked by reporters whether he would resign or dissolve Parliament.
On Tuesday, violent clashes between police and protesters injured 478 people mostly protesters including 85 who were hospitalized, according to medical authorities. Three people were killed, including a 45-year-old woman who succumbed to her injuries late Thursday, and a man who died in what appeared to be a related incident.
The alliance continued to roar its defiance of the authorities and challenged them to a showdown. It accuses Somchai of being a proxy for Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire who was ousted for alleged corruption and misuse of power. Somchai is Thaksin's brother-in-law.
"It is the final war. We cannot lose. If we lose, the country will be gone," top protest leader Sondhi Limthongkul said Thursday from the grounds of the prime minister's office compound, which the protesters have occupied since Aug. 26.
The protest alliance derides Thailand's rural majority who gave landslide election victories to Thaksin and his allies as susceptible to vote-buying and too poorly educated to responsibly choose their representatives.
It wants Thailand to abandon one-man, one-vote democracy, and instead have a mixed system in which some representatives are chosen by certain professions and social groups. They have not explained exactly how such a system would work or what would make it less susceptible to manipulation.

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