Authorities in Thailand arrested a student pro-democracy protest leader Friday after he led demonstrations last month calling for government reforms and an end to military influence on politics.
The arrest of Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, 22, was documented in a video apparently shot by a friend and posted to Parit’s Facebook page. In the video, police can be heard reading charges to him related to a July 18 protest before he was physically carried to a police car. Authorities took him into custody just outside Bangkok while Parit was traveling to a protest.
The July 18 protest and almost daily rallies that have taken place around the country since are a reaction to a disputed election last year that kept junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister five years after he first took power in a 2014 army coup.
Hours after Parit’s arrest, hundreds of students gathered at Chulalongkorn University in central Bangkok for a previously planned anti-government rally. Speakers called for a new constitution and for the government to resign.
Students went ahead with the rally despite a ban by the university, which said it was given too little notice to adequately ensure student safety.
Prime Minister Prayuth has responded to the student-led protests by appealing for unity. In a televised address Thursday, the prime minister urged citizens to “say 'no' to the politics of hate and division and to the politics that spread the disease of tribalism of 'belief versus belief', or 'young versus old', or 'rich versus poor.'”
The student protest groups plan to stage a large protest on Sunday to intensify their demand to reform the military-backed constitution and call for new elections.