Hundreds of anti-government protesters gathered in Bangkok on Monday in defiance of threats by police to make more arrests.
This comes a day after nearly 100 demonstrators were detained on the grounds of breaching public health measures against the coronavirus.
“Free our friends,” demonstrators chanted, raising prospects of another confrontation between police and protesters, who are calling for an end to military dominance of politics and reform of the powerful monarchy, reports Reuters.
“We have prepared troops to maintain order,” Piya Tavichai, deputy head of the Bangkok police, told reporters.
Piya said 99 people were arrested on Sunday, saying the arrests were necessary under a law forbidding large public gatherings to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Thai Lawyers of Human Rights, which is representing those detained on Sunday, said a court had agreed they could be released on bail.
The mostly student-led movement is challenging the military for entrenching its role in civilian politics since Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power in a 2014 coup when he was army chief.
The activists say elections held in 2019 were designed to cement Prayuth’s hold on power. Prayuth and his coalition government allies say the vote was free and fair.
Prayuth on Monday told reporters the weekend arrests were justified.
“You have to look at the law. If I don’t take action, there will be disruption in traffic. We are just taking back space. There have been many warnings,” he said.
Dozens of people have been detained at protests in recent months under disease control and public order laws, but Sunday’s protest represented one of the largest number of arrests at a single rally.
More leaders of the movement are in jail pending trial under a law against insulting the Thai monarchy, which carries a maximum 15-year penalty.