BANGKOK (AP) — Two jailed leaders of a student-led pro-democracy movement that attracted both support and controversy last year when it called for reform of Thailand’s monarchy were released Tuesday after repeated requests for bail.
The Criminal Court freed Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak and singer Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, who are are both charged with lese majeste, defaming the monarchy. Parit had been hospitalized after starting a hunger strike in jail.
They were freed after their lawyers requested bail 10 times and eight times, respectively.
The lese majeste law carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison per count.
Both men are linked to the pro-democracy movement that sprang up last year and held street demonstrations with three core demands: the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his government, amendment of the constitution to make it more democratic, and reform of the monarchy to make it more accountable.
The last demand is the most radical and controversial because the monarchy has rarely faced any public scrutiny and is considered by many to be an untouchable pillar of Thai identity.
The court prohibited the two from engaging in any activities that defame the monarchy and leaving the country without permission. They must also wear electronic monitoring bracelets.
Parit was charged in connection with a Bangkok protest last year. He was detained on Feb. 9 and started a hunger strike on March 15 to demand the right to be granted bail.
His lawyers said his health suffered a sharp decline, and last week he was temporarily moved out of jail to a hospital. He left the jail Tuesday night in an ambulance.
He still faces other counts of lese majeste for which he could be returned to jail..
Chaiamorn was arrested for burning a portrait of Thailand’s king in front of Bangkok’s Klong Plem Central Prison, and had been detained since March 3.
At least three other protest leaders held on lese majeste charges have been freed in the past month.
The Corrections Department said last week that two others, Arnon Nampha and Chukiat Sangwong, had been taken to the prison’s hospital after testing positive for COVID-19.