Thailand military-appointed attorney-general has charged 19 members of the activist group United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, popularly known as "red shirts", on Friday, 16 December, for violating junta rule.
According to reports, the 19 leaders were initially arrested and charged by police in August for violating a political gatherings ban by junta. The activists group had broken the rule by setting up a monitoring centre to keep an eye on a constitutional referendum held by the military government.
"Today the attorney-general has ordered all 19 to be charged and the court has accepted the charges. We will ask for bail," Winyat Chatmoontree, a lawyer for the movement, told reporters, according to Reuters.
The "red shirt" leaders are the supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in the 2006 coup. The activist group had led street rallies in 2009 and 2010 in support of Shinawatra. The same group had also staged demonstration against the 2014 coup of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was also the sister of Thaksin.
Soon after the 2014 incident, the junta came to power and since then it has been trying to root out Thaksin's influence from the country. It has also cracked down on a number of activists, journalists and dissidents in the process. Thai military has also banned political gathering of more than five people
But this time, allies of the red shirt movement believe that the junta has especially targeted pro-Shinawatra 'red shirts.' The military has denied the claims.
Thailand – which has witnessed years of political instability – has remained divided since Thaksin's expulsion in 2006, with his supporters and opponents fighting for power in the streets and at ballot boxes.