(AFP) – Oct 4, 2008
BANGKOK (AFP) — Thai police arrested Sunday a second protest leader who led thousands of demonstrators in a five-week siege of government offices in the capital.
Police said retired general Chamlong Srimuang was arrested on treason and other charges as he visited a polling booth for elections for Bangkok governor.
Srimuang is a core leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) camped outside Government House to demand the resignation of the government which it accuses of being too close to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
"The police arrested Major General Chamlong this morning when he was entering an election station at Sethasathien school," deputy police spokesman Surapol Tuanthong told reporters.
"He cooperated and let the police do their job after being informed," he said, adding that extra police had since been deployed to the PAD's protest camp.
Srimuang, currently detained at police regional border patrol headquarters, is the second leader to be picked up after police issued nine arrest warrants in August in the wake of the demonstrations.
Rally organiser Chaiwat Sinsuwong was arrested on Friday and remains in detention awaiting a court appearance.
Under Thai law a person convicted of treason can face life imprisonment or the death penalty.
The PAD has questioned the legality of the police action as appeals lodged against the arrest warrants have not yet been heard.
At the PAD's camp, set up outside government offices on August 26, members denounced the latest arrest and read aloud a letter purportedly from Chamlong urging them to continue their protest.
"This is a test for PAD's strength. The arrests of Chaiwat and Chamlong show that those who truly love their country are attacked by the police," media tycoon and PAD founder Sondhi Limthongkul said.
The seven other PAD members still wanted by police include Sondhi, activist MP Somkiat Pongpaibul and PAD leaders Somsak Kosaisuk and Pibhop Dhongchai.
PAD spokesman Suriyasai Katasila and rally organisers Therdpoom Chaidee and Amorn Amornrattannond are also sought on arrest warrants.
The PAD led protests against Thaksin in months of political turmoil before he was ousted in a military coup in September 2006.
It launched the latest demonstrations to topple former premier Samak Sundaravej, who was eventually forced from office last month for receiving payment to host two television cooking shows.
His successor, Somchai Wongsawat, has tasked deputy prime minister and seasoned politician Chavalit Yongchaiyudh with negotiating with the PAD.
Somchai and his cabinet have been forced to work out of Bangkok's old airport since the demonstrators took over the government compound.
The new prime minister on Wednesday urged the protesters to leave ahead of the cremation of the king's sister in mid-November and the December summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which Thailand chairs.
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