December 1, 2020

Fugitive ‘Red Shirt’ leader surrenders in Thailand

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Arisman Pongruangrong, a "Red Shirt" hard core leader is accused on terrorist charges

BANGKOK (AP) — A fugitive leader of Thailand’s “Red Shirts” protesters who escaped a police raid by rappelling down a hotel facade in a scene captured by network news teams surrendered Wednesday after 20 months on the run.

Arisman Pongruangrong, a pop singer-turned-activist known for hotheaded speeches that sometimes were interpreted as incitements to arson, faces five serious charges that include terrorism. He denied wrongdoing, and said he was turning himself in because he now has confidence in the country’s judicial system.

“I only called for democracy, not the destruction of anyone or anything, but now there is no more necessity to stage a rally because we have a government that comes from the people’s voice,” said Arisman.

The Red Shirts movement opposed the government of then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and generally supported former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who had been ousted in a 2006 military coup.

Thailand’s new government, led by the sister of the still-fugitive Thaksin, is considered closely aligned with the Red Shirt protesters, though Arisman denied that his surrender was timed to seek lenient treatment under the new administration.

He surrendered to authorities Wednesday in Bangkok, where the Criminal Court denied his request for release on bail, noting he took so long to surrender and he might flee.

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