Bangkok: Thai authorities have summoned
18 leaders of the opposition "Red Shirt" movement to face
charges of sedition and insulting the revered monarchy, a top
official said on Tuesday.
The accused include acting chairwoman Thida
Thavornseth as well as Red Shirt lawmaker Jatuporn Prompan and
other key figures, said the head of Thailand`s Department of
Special Investigation (DSI), Tarit Pengdith.
"I have signed the summonses and sent them to all
those 18 Red Shirt leaders," Tarit said.
He said the leaders were charged with breaching state
security by insulting the monarchy and inciting unrest, and
would have to report to the authorities to answer the
allegations early next month.
Lese majeste -- insulting the monarchy -- is a serious
offence in Thailand punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
The charges stem from speeches made at a Red Shirt
rally held on April 10 that drew tens of thousands of people,
to mark the first anniversary of deadly clashes between the
movement`s supporters and armed troops in central Bangkok.
"We have also taken their behaviour into consideration
to substantiate the charges," Tarit said.
The army has already made a lese majeste complaint
against some of the leaders, many of whom already face
terrorism charges for their role in last year`s mass street
protests which turned violent.
Thailand, which is preparing for elections later this
year, remains deeply divided following its worst civil
violence in decades in April and May 2010, which left more
than 90 people dead, most of them civilians.
The Reds view Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva`s
government as an unelected elite because it came to power in a
2008 parliamentary vote with military backing, after a court
ruling threw out the previous administration.
The DSI is also seeking the court revocation of bail
granted to nine Red Shirt leaders already facing terrorism
charges -- which they deny -- in relation to last year`s
Most Red Shirt leaders surrendered after the army
launched a deadly crackdown on the movement`s encampment in
the heart of Bangkok in May 2010.