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Thai Court Revokes Bail for Opposition Leaders

Daniel Schearf | Bangkok May 12, 2011

A court in Thailand has revoked bail for two opposition leaders because it said they incited unrest at a recent political rally. Thai authorities have been accused of clamping down on the political opposition figures ahead of a nationwide election in July.

Thailand's Criminal Court on Thursday jailed opposition leaders Jatuporn Promphan and Nisit Sinthuprai for violating the terms of their bail.

Authorities last year charged the two with terrorism, along with seven other leaders of the anti-government Red Shirts movement, for leading street protests in Bangkok that turned violent. Most of them were held for several months, until authorities released them on bail on conditions including that they not incite any unrest.

In April state prosecutors charged the nine with violating those conditions and defaming the monarchy for supporting speeches by Jatuporn and Nisit at a Red Shirt rally.

Speaking recently at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand, Jatuporn joked that the law against insulting the monarchy, lese majeste, could apply to anyone listening to him talk.

In a comment that drew laughter from the mostly foreign audience, Jatuporn says of the 18 Red Shirt leaders who were accused of lese majeste, many were just standing next to him when he spoke. He warned the audience they should be careful since they are in similar circumstances.

The criminal court Thursday did not state clearly if bail was revoked for Jatuporn and Nisit because of the allegations of lese majeste or because of other parts of the speeches.

Thailand's laws against insulting the monarchy are the strictest in the world with a mandatory three to fifteen years in prison for every offense.

Anyone can bring charges and police are obliged to investigate, which rights groups say leads to its frequent abuse for political purposes.

On Wednesday prominent Thai historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who has openly called for reform of the law and the monarchy, was charged with lese majeste.

Rights groups say that since a 2006 coup against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, authorities are invoking the controversial law more frequently to silence his allies.

Authorities say the Red Shirt leaders violated their bail conditions at last month's political rally, which marked the one-year anniversary of anti-government demonstrations. Protesters, many of them supporters of Thaksin, demanded a new election and fair treatment of opposition leaders.

The demonstration ended violently when Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ordered the military to clear protesters by force resulting in 90 deaths, most of them civilians.

Abhisit announced Thailand will hold an election on July 3 that pits his ruling Democrats against the Puea Thai party supported by Thaksin.

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