BANGKOK – Members of Thailand’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee were charged on Wednesday for organizing street rallies which culminated in the May 2014 coup that ousted the Yingluck Shinawatra government.
The Litigation Office filed charges of insurrection, illegal assembly and obstructing elections against Suthep Thaugsuban, Satit Wongnongtoey, Chumpol Chulsai, Puttipong Punnagun, Issara Somchai, Witthaya Kaewparadai, Taworn Senniem, Natthapol Teepsuwan and Akanat Promphan.
All of the defendants were members of the opposition Democrat Party.
The litigation paper states that the defendants “organized a public campaign, either through printed materials, verbal acts or public rallies, to bring about a change of government.”
The PDRC defendants were also found to have “conducted illegal and threatening acts to block electoral staff and eligible voters to organize the election or cast a vote at the polling stations.”
The protests were sparked by the Yingluck government’s passing of the amnesty bill in the Pheu Thai-majority parliament, that was seen as paving the way for exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return to Thailand without serving sentences for corruption-related charges.
Supporters of Shinawatra have accused the PDRC of acting as a facade of the “elite” movement in Thailand, comprising the Democrat Party and the military, the two main forces against the rural-backed Shinawatra clan, alleging that the protests were staged as a pretext for the May 2014 coup led by then army chief and current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The PDRC was led by former deputy prime minister and former Democrat Party deputy leader Suthep Thaugsuban, along with many Democrat Party members of parliament, who staged the first rally in October 2013.
During the protests, the group held protests at various key spots in the Thai capital, blocking major roads and storming government buildings, including the Finance Ministry and the Chaengwattana Government Center.
In February 2014, the Yingluck government called a snap election that saw the PDRC forcefully block voters at polling stations across the country.
The nine defendants were granted bail by the Criminal Court, awaiting the first trial hearing scheduled on March 19, according to an epa journalist at the courthouse.