Red Shirt leader to run for Parliament
A leader of Thailand's anti-government Red Shirt protest movement was briefly released from detainment on terrorism charges so he could register Monday for a parliamentary by-election. Kokaew Pikulthong was among 11 leaders and security guards arrested and charged with terrorism for allegedly fomenting violence during the Red Shirts' 10-week occupation of central Bangkok in a bid to bring down the government. Nearly 90 people were killed and more than 1,400 injured before and during the army crackdown that drove them out on May 19.
A court ruled that Kokaew, who has not been convicted, was allowed to leave Bangkok Remand Prison to register for the July 25 by-election under the banner of the Pheu Thai party. The party is allied with deposed former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who is widely believed to have funded the Red Shirt rallies from his self-imposed exile abroad.
The upcoming special election will pick a replacement for a lawmaker who died earlier this month and was from Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's Democrat Party.
Hundreds of supporters greeted Kokaew, 45, who wore a red jacket after the Department of Corrections rejected his request to wear his prison uniform to the election registration.
"I plan to send the thoughts in my heart from behind bars to my team on the outside, so they can forward my message to voters," he told reporters. It remains unclear if Kokaew will be allowed out of prison to campaign.
Four other candidates are vying for the seat, one of 36 that represent Bangkok, including the Democrat Party's Panich Vikitsreth, who last week resigned his post as Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs to contest the election.
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