Still out on bail for his earlier arrest in Bangkok, human rights lawyer and activist Anon Nampa is facing a new complaint charging him again with sedition and illegal assembly during a rally in Chiang Mai over the weekend.
Acting in his capacity as a private attorney, Apiwat Kanthong, assistant minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, filed a comlaint with Chiang Mai police on Sunday.
Apiwat accused Anon of organizing a public rally to insult the monarchy in violation of Section 6 of the emergency decree, which bans public gatherings, and also for violating sections 116 and 125 under the Criminal Code which cover sedition.
Anon was released on bail after being charged with the same offenses following a protest at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument. His bail was conditioned on not repeating the actions that led to his charges, something he clearly was unconcerned about Sunday night.
In fact, three pro-democracy groups were responsible for making the event at the Tha Pae Gate happen: The Mahanakorn Group for Democracy, Mokaset Group and the Pro-Democratic Citizens group.
Before Anon spoke, music, speeches and dancing started at 5 p.m.
“Many people have been jailed and more live in exile, losing their lives for their opposing side and disappearing without being tracked or found,” an event leaflet read. “This is all due to differences in opinion.”
While the night played out peacefully, more than 50 armed and uniformed police officers stood watch, patroling the crowd, which topped out at about 400 people. Officers employed speakers in the back of pick-up trucks to blast the crowd with pleas to disband. The requests were lost in a sea applause and cheering.
There would be two hours of activities before Anon would speak. Some of the more powerful moments included a handicapped activist making his testimonial and a gripping spoken-word performance by a local artist.
Participants also were encouraged to sign a petition for changes to Thai law. Throughout the evening, there would be a constant line of people waiting to sign.
At around 7 p.m. the crowd cheered loudly. Anon, “disguised” in a paper mask of his own likeness, approached the stage. The crowd went wild when he slipped off the mask.
Anon took aim at the government for “threatening” the pro-democracy movement and repeated the protestors three demands: “Stop threatening the people, dissolve the parliament and write a new constitution.”
This time, however, he avoided discussion reform of Thailand’s draconian royal defamation law, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years per charge.
Nampa took a bow and quietly slipped away after about 20 minutes of speaking. “Did you see that?” student activist Yossunthon Ruttapradid asked after the event. “I have goosebumps.”
Will Langston is a freelance photojournalist in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He can be reached at WillLangston.com.