Thailand’s military government refused to release 14 students arrested for anti-coup activities despite growing pressure Monday.

arrestedThe army chief said the government could not afford to release the students as it might “inspire more protests and lead to problems for the nation.”

The students were arrested over a week ago for repeatedly protesting military rule despite warnings from security forces.

The junta said the case will be tried in a military court for sedition, which could bring up to seven years in jail.

“This government is not anyone’s enemy,” said Army Chief Udomdej Sitabutr. “But if family members commit a crime, they must face criminal punishment.”

His statements come after internal and international pressure on the junta to release the students.

More than 500 demonstrators gathered in downtown Bangkok on Friday, calling for their release.

The European Union and the United Nations called the arrests “worrying.”

Human Rights Watch urged authorities to release the students, saying the arrests “demonstrate the military junta’s unwillingness to ease its oppressive rule.”

The military said the arrests and suspension of civil rights are necessary to ensure national security and a smooth return to democracy.

It took power in a coup on May 22, 2014, after several months of turmoil and violent street clashes between political rivals.


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