The Bangkok Central Criminal Court granted bail to two anti-government protest leaders on Tuesday, as the Thai government extended the country's state of emergency. Jatuporn Prompan and Karun Hongsakul face charges of terrorism [Bangkok Post report], instigating violence, and unlawful assembly in connection with their leadership positions in the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) [party website, in Thai], a group known as red shirts [BBC backgrounder] that conducted anti-government protests spanning from March 12 to May 19. The two posted bail [AP report] set at 1 million baht (USD $30,700) each, though the Department of Special Investigation [official website, in Thai] fought to keep the men in jail. As members of Parliament [official website, in Thai] in the opposition Puea Thai Party, both men had immunity until the parliamentary term ended last week, meaning they were not subject to immediate arrest and were eligible to receive special detention conditions. The terms of their bail are unconditional, and the men may travel as long as they do not violate the provisions of the newly-extended state of emergency. The men could face death sentences if convicted of the terrorism charges. Also Tuesday, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [official website, in Thai] announced that he will not lift the emergency decree [Bangkok Post report] instituted in April [JURIST report] until July 7 due to suspicion that red shirt protesters are planning additional rallies. Under the state of emergency, civil liberties will continue to be restricted through the institution of curfews and the banning of public gatherings. Additionally, the police have broader powers to arrest and detain, the government may censor media reports and detainees can be held for 30 days without access to legal counsel.
The protests came to end [JURIST report] last month when red shirt leaders surrendered to police, which led to rioting, arson, and the imposition of a curfew to protect citizens of Bangkok and its surrounding areas. The red shirts are supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was removed from power in 2006 [JURIST report]. The group was demanding that Abhisit dissolve parliament and call new elections. Last month, 27 red shirt protesters were sentenced to six months in prison [JURIST report] for violating the emergency decree prohibiting political gatherings of more than five people. Under the strict security law [JURIST report] adopted in March in anticipation of the protests, the detained red shirts faced a sentence of up to a year in prison, but their sentences were reduced because they confessed to the charges. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has expressed concern about the treatment of anti-government protesters [JURIST report] detained as a result of the protests, criticizing the broad powers given to Thai security forces under the emergency decree. Abhisit has vowed to conduct an independent investigation [JURIST report] of the clashes between security forces and red shirt protesters, which resulted in more than 80 deaths.