Police commandos surprised the We Volunteer (WeVo) leader and his guards as they met at a 5th-floor car park within a shopping centre in the Ratchayothin area of Bangkok ahead of last Saturday’s protests to review tactics while eating lunch. Police revealed they had received intelligence on the group which led to ‘illegal association’ charges against Mr Piyarat Chongthep and his guards to be brought forward on Sunday.
We Volunteer (WeVo) guard leader Piyarat Chongthep or ‘Toto’ was denied bail by the Criminal Court in Bangkok when he and other members of his group appeared before it charged with criminal association on Monday. The charges could see him jailed for up to seven years. It follows a police operation on Saturday, based on intelligence, to smash and disrupt the activities of the group believed to be behind the violent attacks seen since the start of the year on riot police lines in the city.
Police on Sunday charged the leader of the Ratsadon guards or the We Volunteer (WeVo) movement and sixteen others including a surgeon, of being part of an ‘illegal association’ and brought formal charges and proceedings before the Criminal Court on Monday.
Piyarat Chongthep, also known as ‘Toto’, is believed by authorities to be responsible for the use of aggressive tactics by protesters which saw the police come under heavy fire with many hospitalised at major rallies since the beginning of 2021.
Arrest of We Volunteer (WeVo) leadership gathering at the 5th floor of a shopping centre car park
On Saturday, ahead of a gathering at the Criminal Court in Bangkok, a police force moved in to arrest the guard leader on the 5th floor of a shopping centre in the Ratchayothin area of Bangkok.
The arrest of the leader drew opposition from many supporters who clashed with officers and it is understood that up to 49 people in total were detained by police including 20 guard members who were eating lunch ahead of the protest on the 5th storey of the car park before the gathering on Saturday evening.
Police commandos accosted the group eating lunch
They were accosted by a force of 10 police commandos who bound their hands and placed them in vehicles.
In the operation, the guard leader, Mr Piyarat, was taken away in a separate car while his followers were placed in a number of other vehicles.
Police have claimed the purpose of the rendezvous at the car park facility was to review the arsenal of weapons which the group had access to and decide the tactics to be deployed against police lines in the coming protest rally.
Officers, on Saturday, revealed they had seized 15 catapults, glass balls, iron bolts, explosive devices, flak jackets and helmets.
Authorities contend this was an illegal activity and the group were acting in concert to pursue such aims thereby forming an illegal association.
Charges could see the guards’ leader jailed for 7 years if found guilty by the court of ‘illegal association’
This may see the members of the group face charges under Section 309 of the criminal code relating to a criminal association of five or more people and abuse of arms to hold sway over others or to extort them.
The charges could see a term of imprisonment of seven years imposed.
Police prosecuting the charges have detailed that the group hid its activities from view, divided up responsibilities among more than five people and had set out to commit illegal acts including repeated attempts to intimidate, apply violent force as well as committing illegal acts of assault on police.
Group defended by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights
It is reported the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights are acting in the legal defence of the group of 18 guards as well as Mr Piyarat.
It has instructed those charged, including two minors, who will appear before the juvenile court, not to sign any documents presented at this point.
It has also emerged that a running battle ensued between police and We Volunteer (WeVo) guards on Saturday as those arrested were taken away in police cars and transports.
A number of vehicles were stopped and damaged by protesters and guards as they drove out of the car park where the leader and his associates were detained.
‘Toto’ denied bail on Monday by the court after he appeared before it while 14 walked free pending trial
This led to 14 arrested and later released guard members in a riot situation, presenting themselves with a lawyer, acting on their behalf, to police at Phahon Yothin Police Station on Saturday, to make it clear that they had not sought to resist arrest or evade detention by authorities.
In court, on Monday, Mr Piyarat was denied bail while fourteen of seventeen adult guard members detained with him and brought to Border Patrol Police Bureau Headquarters in Pathum Thani, were granted bail pending trial on the charges.