Thai authorities have summoned 18 leaders of the opposition "Red Shirt" movement to face charges of sedition and insulting the revered monarchy, a top official said.
The accused include acting chairwoman Thida Thavornseth as well as Red Shirt lawmaker Jatuporn Prompan and other key figures, said the head of Thailand's Department of Special Investigation (DSI), Tarit Pengdith.
"I have signed the summonses and sent them to all those 18 Red Shirt leaders," Tarit told AFP on Tuesday.
He said the leaders were charged with breaching state security by insulting the monarchy and inciting unrest, and would have to report to the authorities to answer the allegations early next month.
Lese majeste -- insulting the monarchy -- is a serious offence in Thailand punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
The charges stem from speeches made at a Red Shirt rally held on April 10 that drew tens of thousands of people, to mark the first anniversary of deadly clashes between the movement's supporters and armed troops in central Bangkok.
"We have also taken their behavior into consideration to substantiate the charges," Tarit said.
The army has already made a lese majeste complaint against some of the leaders, many of whom already face terrorism charges for their role in last year's mass street protests which turned violent.
Thailand, which is preparing for elections later this year, remains deeply divided following its worst civil violence in decades in April and May 2010, which left more than 90 people dead, most of them civilians.
The Reds view Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's government as an unelected elite because it came to power in a 2008 parliamentary vote with military backing, after a court ruling threw out the previous administration.
The DSI is also seeking the court revocation of bail granted to nine Red Shirt leaders already facing terrorism charges -- which they deny -- in relation to last year's rally.
Most Red Shirt leaders surrendered after the army launched a deadly crackdown on the movement's encampment in the heart of Bangkok in May 2010.
Source: AFP Asian Edition