CHIANG MAI – Three people have reportedly been arrested for their suspected connection to a brief pro-democracy demonstration in front of the United States Consulate in northern Thailand today.
Around ten masked activists gathered in front of the US Consulate in Chiang Mai province this afternoon and held signs pledging their support for human rights, democracy, and non-violence.
The consulate was presumably chosen as the location for the rally because of the US government’s criticism of the 2014 May coup and the junta’s ongoing suppression of civil rights.
The protesters wore masks with cartoon portraits of the fourteen young activists who were arrested last Friday for staging a peaceful pro-democracy demonstration in Bangkok. The activists, thirteen men and one woman, are facing up to seven years in prison for charges of sedition and violating the junta's ban on political gatherings, which was has been in place since the military seized power from an elected government thirteen months ago.
The activists are being held in prisons while they await trial in a military court.
One of the protesters in Chiang Mai today read a letter that condemned the arrests, and called upon authorities to release the fourteen activists without any conditions, Matichon reported.
"Our [decision] to come out and make this demand today is nothing more than doing a duty of friends who see their friends being bullied by injustice," the activist said. "We do not understand why the state sees the youths of this nation, who hold the principles of democracy, human rights, justice, public participation, and non-violence, as individuals who are dangerous to national security. The brutality that is happening to our friends today is so irrational that we find it hard to believe that it is a reality."
The protesters dispersed from the consulate before soldiers arrived to inspect the scene.
According to Prachatai, several hours later police arrested three people at a cafe in Chiang Mai in connection with the protest, which took place on the same day that junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha arrived for a two-day visit in Chiang Mai. Security officers previously told the media that they were not expecting any political demonstrations.
The three suspects were taken to the police station for interrogation, Prachatai reported.
Last week, Glyn Davies, who was recently nominated to be the next American ambassador to Thailand, repeated the US’s concerns about the junta's restrictions on civil liberties in his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"Since the coup, the United States has consistently underscored both publicly and privately our concerns about the disruption of Thailand’s democratic traditions and accompanying restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly," Davies said according to a transcript published on the US Embassy in Bangkok's website. "We maintain that democracy can only emerge when the Thai people freely and fairly elect their own representatives and leaders. As required by law, the United States has suspended certain assistance until a democratically elected civilian government takes office. When that occurs, our bilateral relationship can return to its fullest capacity."