Apartment owner arrested ahead of protest; We Volunteer van searched

The police arrested the owner of an apartment in Nonthaburi on Sunday morning (18 July), ahead of the protest in the afternoon, and confiscated effigies made for the protest march.

The body bag effigies (Picture from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that police officers went to the apartment at around 6.00 with a search warrant. They confiscated 400 bundles of hay tied in cloth to look like corpses and a figure of a gas mask, which were to be taken to the protest in the afternoon, and detained the apartment’s owner.

She was detained for over six hours before being released at 12.45. During her detention, she was not given access to a lawyer. She said that she rented the apartment out as a storage unit and had no information on what was being stored there.

Following her arrest, members of the We Volunteer protest guard group went to look for her, but did not know which police station she had been taken to. They finally found her at Plaibang Police Station.

We Volunteer leader Piyarat Chongthep posted on his Facebook page that it was unclear which law had been violated, and that the owner of the effigies is likely to press charges against the police.

Meanwhile, police officers searched a van belonging to We Volunteer, which was delivering equipment for the protest, including effigies, and bottles of fermented fish . They also checked We Volunteer member Rattaphum Lertpaijit’s ID card.

The officers wanted to take picture of Rattaphum’s ID card, claiming that they have to check whether he has an outstanding arrest warrant. They asked to search the car, but were refused. No one at the scene was found to have an arrest warrant, and the police did not present a search warrant.

The officers claimed that they had to check whether there was anything illegal in the van, and asked for the identity of the owner of the content. During the search, an officer asked whether the fermented fish was for throwing at the officers.

Piyarat said that because the officers opened the packages of bottled fermented fish, they had to buy the entire lot. He also claimed that the officers told them that they wouldn’t let them go if they didn’t sell them the fish.   

Sunday’s protest took place at the Democracy Monument at 14.00 and was organized by Free Youth and its partner groups. The protesters planned to march to Government House to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, a reduction in the budget for the monarchy and military to increase Covid-19 assistance, and replacement of the Sinovac vaccine with mRNA vaccines. However, they were blocked from reaching the Government House by crowd control police armed with rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannon trucks.

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