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General news >> Friday July 27, 2007
Protests flare as UDD leaders are locked up

Police say suspects will be held at least 12 days


About 300 anti-coup protesters last night unsuccessfully pressed to visit the nine key leaders of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) who were ordered by the Criminal Court to be put in detention.

The court's approval came after police investigators decided to submit requests for detention warrants for the nine in connection with their alleged involvement in Sunday's clashes in front of the residence of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda.

The court ordered the nine UDD leaders to be held in detention at Samsen police station for two days so police could carry out legal procedures involving fingerprinting and the processing of documents.

After that they will be moved to the police detention centre at Bang Khen where they will be held for another 10 days. The law allows police to seek to renew a suspect's detention period six times, each time for 12 days.

Investigators said there are about 200 witnesses to the clashes on Sunday and it would take some time to interrogate all of them.

In the request, the UDD leaders face accusations of holding an illegal assembly of at least 10 people which caused unrest, and of leading illegal acts. They are also accused of resisting authorities and using force to harm authorities. In addition, they also broke the law by holding illegal processions blocking traffic and using loudspeakers without permission, according to the detention request.

They denied the charges.

The nine UDD leaders are PTV executives Chatuporn Promphan, Jakrapob Penkair and Nattawut Saikua; PTV president Veera Musikhapong; Viputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai, spokesman for the Saturday Voice Against Dictatorship; Weng Tojirakarn, adviser to the Confederation for Democracy; Jaran Ditthapichai, former member of the National Human Rights Commission; Manit Jitjanklab, former chief justice of the Criminal Court; and Apiwant Viriyachai, a former Thai Rak Thai party MP.

At 8.10pm, police escorted the nine UDD leaders to Samsen police station from the court.

At 10pm about 300 people gathered outside the police station, cursing the police and demanding to visit the detainees. Police allowed only family members of Dr Weng to visit him inside the station and seized bullhorns from the protesters.

The court decision has raised the ire of the leaders, some of whom went so far as to claim the court had been used as part of the plot against them.

Jakrapob Penkair, one of the detained leaders, was upset about the move by police and said he and the other UDD leaders were caught off-guard by both the police and the court.

"Police set up the situation with the court being a part of it. From now on, there is no telling how the situation would develop and no telling whether violence would erupt or not," Mr Jakrapob said.

An army of supporters of the UDD leaders who showed up at the court vented their anger at the court decision.

They hurled abuse at police and court officials. Riot police were called in to keep security.

Deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau Pol Lt-Gen Jet Mongkolhatti denied Mr Jakrapob's assertion.

"Police did not betray them. The detention is part of procedures after the protesters were informed of the charges," he said.

The Metropolitan Police Bureau ordered Pol Lt-Col Arkom Chantanalacha, an investigator, to submit a court request seeking detention warrants for the nine UDD leaders.

Than Bunyatulanont, secretary to the Criminal Court, denied allegations that the court was used as a tool against the UDD leaders, saying the court had followed proper legal procedures and it had sufficient grounds for approving detention requests by police.

Gen Prem called on people not to betray their nation. Betrayers are people with ill intentions towards those who have done good deeds for them, he said.

The violence on Sunday prompted the government to order the Foreign Ministry to explain the situation to diplomats and officials of international organisations yesterday.

Diplomats including seven ambassadors, who attended the ministry's briefing and watched a six-minute video recording of the clashes, were optimistic that the situation would not hamper attempts to restore democracy.

A Western diplomat said no one attending even asked about the fate of the protest leaders or whether police treatment of them was too harsh.

"It is good that the briefing was held although the ministry did not provide much detail about the consequences," she said.

Another ambassador said they were told that the protesters had a tendency to use violence.

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