Pro-democracy WeVo (We Volunteer) guard leader, Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, and 18 protest guards were arrested last night, December 7, for allegedly stealing government property while they were removing barbed-wire fences in the Phaya Thai district of Bangkok, installed by officials previously to allegedly prohibit possible protests in the area.
The group of WeVo guards arrived to collect the police barricades deployed under a pedestrian bridge over the Uruphong intersection at around 9:00 P.M. after being alerted by local pedestrians that the fences had troubled them from walking and using the bridge.
According to Piyarat’s statement to the press, locals had already contacted police authorities but no action was being done. They then decided to contact the pro-democracy guards via their Facebook page to help remove the line of fences, which was believed to have been installed since October.
“We also made the announcements on our social media channels to seek the owner of the wires but there was no response. Therefore we decided to come forward and collect them,” Piyarat added.
Metro Police Bureau deputy commissioner Attawit Saiseub arrived at the scene fifty minutes later, asking the guards to stop and leave the fences on the roadside but Piyarat allegedly insisted to keep collecting with his team and refused the order.
At this stage, police brought their reinforcements as of 10:00 P.M. and announced via an amplifier for anyone who was not involved to leave the area within five minutes. Some protest guards were arrested shortly after the announcement without notice, according to their statements to the press, including their guard leader Piyarat.
A total of 19 Wevo guards were detained at Phaya Thai police station while a group of 200 pro-democracy protesters also arrived at the station, constantly chanting “release our friends”.
As of 12:00 A.M., Move Forward MP Amarat Chokepamitkul arrived to negotiate with the police and to offer to bail all of the guards. She told the press that instead of stealing charges, the guards were charged for Section 215 and Section 216 as they were a group of more than ten persons being assembled together and refusing to disperse accordingly with police orders.
An initial investigation was being conducted for several hours until all of the protest guards were eventually released without bail money at 1:48 AM. today, December 8th. The scene outside of the police station was, however, tense but remained for the most part peaceful.
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