Thailand's police arrested dozens of students on Friday night for holding protests on the first anniversary of the military coup that ousted the government of Yingluck Shinawatra. The student protest was a rare sight in a country where gatherings of more than five people are illegal.
At least 48 students were arrested for demonstrating against the military-backed government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O-Cha.
The protests turned violent after some of the students tried to chain themselves together outside a popular mall to resist arrest. Teams of police officers in uniform and plainclothes were seen dragging protesters away, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
Police also detained 31 members of the Young People for Social-Democracy group.
Officials said the students had been “merely invited for talks” after they were dragged away and held overnight. “Police merely invited them for talks they are not arrested," Major General Chayapol Chatchaidet told AFP.
"All 31 students have been freed this morning. No charge has been filed against anyone," he added.
Later that day, 30 more protesters were detained outside the Bangkok Arts and Cultural Centre, Reuters reported.
Seven more students were also detained in the strongly pro-Shinawatra town of Khon Kaen for displaying anti-coup messages, according to the Bangkok Post.
Local monitor iLaw reported that at least 751 individuals have been summoned by Thai security services since last year.
The junta says that it restored order to the country after months of violent protests against Yingluck’s government, which was condemned for graft and wastefulness. She is currently on trial for criminal negligence for her role in a multi-billion dollar rice subsidy scheme.
Speaking to reporters on the day of the arrests, Prayuth acknowledged that overthrowing the government was wrong, but defended the action, saying, "we cannot fix the past, but we can build for the future," the Associated Press reported.