Thai protest leaders released on bail

Thai human rights lawyer Anon Numpa. - Reuters

BANGKOK (AFP): Two prominent Thai pro-democracy protest leaders were granted bail on Tuesday (June 1), weeks after contracting coronavirus in the kingdom's overcrowded prison system.

Activist Panupong "Mike" Jadnok and human rights lawyer Anon Numpa are both facing multiple charges under royal defamation laws.

A Thai criminal court on Tuesday granted them bail, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said.

They had to post a 200,000 baht (US$6,500) bail bond each and are banned from leaving Thailand or becoming involved with further activities that defame the monarchy.

Anon has been in custody for more than 100 days and Panupong for 85.

They are expected to be released from Thammasat University Hospital later on Tuesday.

A third activist facing royal defamation charges, Chukiat "Justin" Saengwon, was also granted bail Tuesday.

Student-led protests in Bangkok last year drew tens of thousands of people at their peak but have petered out as Thailand grapples with a third wave of coronavirus infections and tighter restrictions on public gatherings.

The rallies broke long-held taboos by pushing for reform of Thailand's monarchy, which is protected by some of the strictest lese majeste laws in the world.

About 90 people from the democracy movement have fallen foul of royal defamation laws since July last year and are awaiting trial.

Those convicted can face up to 15 years in jail per charge.

Thai authorities are grappling with a coronavirus outbreak in the prison system with more than 26,000 infections and nine deaths.

The Thai prison population stood at around 311,000 earlier this year, the International Federation for Human Rights said -- more than two and a half times the system's official capacity.

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