Cops Use Virus Emergency Law to Break Up Anti-Coup Rally, Arrest 2

Police disperse an anti-coup protest on May 22, 2020. Image: Banrasdr Photo

BANGKOK — Citing the emergency law that the government insisted was solely for combating the coronavirus, police arrested two activists on Friday evening at a rally denouncing the military coup that took place six years ago.

In a phone call from a police station, activist Anurak “Ford” Jeantawanich said he and his friend were charged with violating the Emergency Decree, which bans gathering of five people or more. If true, it would prove to be the first time the authorities used the decree to charge someone for political activism since it was enacted in late March.

Read: Activists Blocked From Hanging Coup Anniversary Banners

“Police said we violated the Emergency Decree by gathering more than 5 people. They invited us into a car,” Anurak said. “”We insist we did not violate the decree and are now checking how much we need to pay for bail surety.”


Anurak was arrested at a rally in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center on Friday evening where he and about 10 other protesters condemned the coup that brought PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to power six years ago.

They arrived to find the space in front of the art gallery cordoned off with signs saying that activities are not allowed under the 2005 Emergency Decree. Police officers stationed close by then moved in to arrest Anurak and another activist, Totsaporn Serirak.

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A sign posted in front of the BACC warns that activities are banned under the Emergency Decree.

The pair was brought to Phaya Thai Police Station, awaiting a bail request.

The government said today it will extend the emergency law through June, even as critics suspect the decree was being used to shore up PM Prayut’s regime and silence the opposition.

The Emergency Decree allows security officers to detain and search individuals without court warrants, close down buildings, and ban traveling in certain areas.