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Thai protest leaders handed prison terms - and freed on bail

[BANGKOK] Six prominent Thai anti-government protest leaders were sentenced to two years in jail on Thursday for storming the prime minister's office during a 2008 rally - and then released on bail to allow for appeals.

Thousands of "yellow shirt" protesters from the royalist People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) held protracted rallies in 2006 that helped undermine then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, leading to his overthrow later that year.

In 2008, the group held rallies against a pro-Thaksin government, which was eventually disbanded by a court, leading to the rise of Thaksin's "red shirt" supporters who shut down parts of central Bangkok for seven weeks in 2010. "The court finds that going in Government House impacted the freedom of others and was not a peaceful protest according to the constitution. All six are jailed for three years ... reduced to two years," a criminal court judge said in passing sentence.

The six include former media mogul and PAD protest leader Sonthi Limthongkul.

A lawyer for the group said the six were released after posting 200,000 baht (S$8,094) bail each.

Thailand has been divided for a decade between supporters of Thaksin and the Bangkok-based military establishment.

The once-influential, pro-establishment PAD has played a reduced role in Thailand's politics in recent years but many of its members took part in protests in Bangkok last year that helped lead to the ouster of Thaksin's sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The protests culminated in a May coup by the army.