Activist Ekkachai Hongkangwan gestures as he waits at Government House to give watches to Deputy Prime Minister Prawait Wongsuwon on Jan 9. He was arrested at his house in Bangkok on Saturday for violating the public gathering and internal security laws but later granted bail. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

A co-leader of a pro-election group has been granted bail after being arrested in front of his house in Lat Phrao district while others from the group have gone ahead with their weekly rally at Democracy Monument on Saturday.

Ekkachai Hongkangwan was later released on bail on Saturday on a bond of 100,000 baht. 

One of the activists identified by police as a co-leader of the Jan 27 gathering on the BTS skywalk, he was the subject of an arrest warrant after he failed to report to police on Thursday.

Like 39 others summoned to report  earlier this week, Mr Ekkachai was charged with violating the public assembly law and the junta’s order banning gatherings of more than five people. The group has become known as the MBK39.

But since Mr Ekkachai was identified by police as a co-leader, along with four others, he was also charged with sedition under the Criminal Code, a more serious crime under the jurisdiction of the military court.

Following his arrest on Saturday morning, Mr Ekkachai was taken to the Lat Phrao police station before being sent to the Pathumwan police station, which handles the case.

A nonchalant Ekkachai told reporters while giving a three-finger salute, a reference to freedom in the Hunger Games movies, that police had waited for him in front of his house since 7am.

He said he had only received only one police summons — police normally send two before asking the court for an arrest warrant. He also denied all the charges, saying he had done nothing wrong and did not even address the crowd during the rally.

Pathumwan police, however, dismissed his claim as an excuse and insisted they had sent him two summonses.

Mr Ekkachai was also in the news earlier when he kept trying to give Gen Prawit Wongsuwon cheap watches to make his point about the deputy prime minister’s extraordinary collection of expensive timepieces.   

Sirawich “Ja New” Serithiwat, another co-leader who did not report to police on Thursday, also wrote on his Facebook page he did not receive any police summons and pledged to continue with the planned rally at 4pm on Saturday.

Pol Col Pitak Sitthikul, commander of the Chana Songkhram police station, said on Saturday afternoon he had deployed 200 officers to Democracy Monument ahead of the protest. He also said the use of loudspeakers would not be allowed.

Since three of the co-leaders — Mr Sirawich, Rangsiman Rome and Anon Nampa — are facing arrest warrants because they did not report to police on Thursday, they will likely be arrested on sight if they show up at the rally.  

Video by Prachatai Facebook

News Reporter

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