Morning Chronicle - Thai protest leader freed on bail

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Thai protest leader freed on bail
Thai protest leader freed on bail

Thai protest leader freed on bail

A Thai court on Thursday freed a prominent pro-democracy protest leader on bail after almost 200 days in detention.

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Student-led demonstrations in 2020, calling for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha's resignation and making unprecedented calls for reform to Thailand's untouchable monarchy, drew tens of thousands at their peak.

But the movement petered out as Covid-19 case numbers surged and the authorities detained most of the leaders.

Nearly 160 activists, including 13 juveniles, have been hit with criminal charges under Thailand's tough royal defamation laws, which carry a jail sentence of up to 15 years per charge.

On Thursday a Bangkok court granted bail to university student Parit Chiwarak, better known in Thailand by his nickname "Penguin", who is facing 23 lese majeste charges.

The 23-year-old, who last year went on a 57-day hunger strike in jail, was freed on a 200,000 baht ($6,000) bond, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, which represented him.

As he walked free, wearing a white T-shirt and holding a white rose, Parit gave the three-fingered salute adopted as a gesture of defiance by the protest movement from the "Hunger Games" movies.

"Truth never dies and will continue to live on... what we told is the truth," he told reporters and well-wishers.

"The fight of the people will continue."

Fellow protest leader Anon Numpa, 37, was denied bail as the court feared he would cause more trouble if released, according to a post on his Facebook page.

Fellow protest leader Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul, who is out on bail and facing 10 royal defamation charges, sent messages of support to Parit and Anon.