Anti-Coup Leader Released On Bail, Charged With Lese Majeste

Anti-coup protesters wear masks of key leader Sombat Boonngarm-anong's face.

BANGKOK — A prominent anti-coup activist has been released on bail after receiving an additional charge of lese majeste, an offense that could add fifteen years to his possible prison sentence.

Sombat Boonngarm-anong, aka the Dotted Editor, was transferred from Bangkok Remand Prison to Roi Et province in Thailand’s northeast yesterday to hear charges of defaming the royal family (lese majeste) before he was released on bail.

Prior to the transfer, Mr. Sombat was held at Bangkok Remand Prison for nearly a month on charges of “inciting unrest,” violating the Computer Crimes Act, and defying a summons order from the military junta's National Council for Peace and Order. Mr. Sombat was later charged with lese majeste, which carries a prison sentence of up to fifteen years, after pro-monarchy activist Wiput Sukprasert filed a complaint with the provincial police in Roi Et.

Yesterday, Mr. Sombat's wife posted a bail of 300,000 baht, said Pol.Maj.Gen. Kittirat Noiponthong, a police commander in Roi Et province. Mr. Sombat has been ordered not to incite any unrest, instigate any illegal activity, or leave the country without the court's permission under the conditions of his bail release, Pol.Maj.Gen. Kittirat said. 


Mr. Sombat will also be required to report to Roi Et police every 30 days and to the military court in Bangkok every 12 days, Pol.Maj.Gen. Kittirat added.

The NCPO summoned Mr. Sombat, along with hundreds of other activists, politicians, and academics to report to the military shortly after it staged a coup against the elected government on 22 May. 

Mr. Sombat refused to turn himself in and took to social media to organise flash mob protests against the military junta in Bangkok. Police arrested Mr. Sombat two weeks later at his hiding place in Chonburi province on 5 June, claiming to have tracked him down using his IP address.

Mr. Sombat’s arrest came as a major setback to the budding anti-coup movement that he had played a central role in organizing. Anti-coup demonstrations, which were originally held daily and with attendance in the hundreds, have become increasingly infrequent and rarely draw numbers in the double digits.

Mr. Sombat was also an active campaigner against the last military coup in September 2006, when he co-founded the 19 Sep Network Against Coup D'etat. He later split from the network and founded his own group, "Thais Say No," whose members adopted red shirts as their trademark, preceding today's Redshirt movement by a year. 



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