Sunday, 24 January 2016

Drop the charges against the 11 student activists arrested for violating a ban political gathering

Thailand Human Rights Campaign UK (THRC UK) is deeply concerned with the abduction and alleged beating and mistreatment of student activist Sirawith Seritiwat by military and the  judicial harassment against the 11 activists. Sirawith is among the 11 student activists from the New Democracy Movement (NDM) who was charged with violating the junta's ban political gathering. 

The 11 activists included Mr. Sirawith Seritiwat, Mr. Anon Nampha, Ms. Chonthicha Jaeung-Rew, Ms. Chanoknan Ruamsap, Mr. Thanet Anantawong, Mr. Kititituch Suman, Mr. Wisarut Anukulkanm, Mr, Abhisit Sapnaphapan, Mr. Korakot Saengyenpan, Ms. Kornkanok Khumta, and Mr. Vichit Hanhaboon were accused of violating the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 3/2015, which prohibits political gatherings of five or more persons, after they participated in a failed excursion to Rajabhakti Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province on 7 December 2015 to investigate corruption allegations at the park.

Description of the situation:

On January 20, 2016, a student activist ,Sirawith has been abducted by military at late night and police arrested a further four student activits on Thursday(21 January). 

Military abducted an anti-junta student from university

Eight military officers at around 10:30 pm on Wednesday, 20 January 2016, abducted Sirawit Serithiwat, aka Ja New, while he was walking in the Rangsit Campus of Thammasat University. He was taken by a group of officers from two pickup trucks with concealed license plates.  Junta  denied knowledge of Sirawith's arrest.

After being abducted by eight military officers, Thai Lawyers of Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Sirawit was brought to Nimit Mai Police Station at 1:10 am before being transferred to Thonburi Police Station several hours later.
Sirawith gave his account of the incident to the reporter at the police station, a video of which was posted to the New Democracy Movement's Facebook page. 
In a video taken at a police station, Sirawith said:

"I was taken into a vehicle, my head was covered and I was blindfolded with a rubber band, so I couldn’t see anything. I sensed that I was driven around for a long distance with many twists and turns until the vehicle stopped in the bushes in an unidentified area. I was dragged into the bushes and forced to kneel down. When I resisted they kicked me."

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)'s reaction on 21 Janurary 2016 , junta spokesman Winthai Suravee stated that  the soldiers treated him with honor and there was no violence as alleged by someone who tired to distort the facts.

Instead of ordering an investigation of the incident and holding soldiers responsible for abuse accountable, Gen.Prayuth said at Government house:

He violated the Public Assembly Bill and the NCPO’s order [Order Number 3/2558, which bans public assembly and political activity].  Officials could use any measures to arrest him. Why don’t people respect the laws instead of asking for democracy and human rights all the time? No one is allowed to oppose. I dare you to try to oppose. I don’t care what the international community would think about this. I will send officials to explain to foreign embassies. I am not afraid of them. I will tell them to understand that this is Thailand and we are enforcing Thai laws.

In addition to Sirawith’s arrest, three other activists were also detained

Police arrested three more activists wanted by the military court for organizing a December protest against alleged corruption in the Royal Thai Army’s construction project. 

on 21 January 2016, the three activists are Chonticha Jaeng-rew, Chanoknan Ruamsap, and Korakoch Saengyenpan. Police showed them the arrest warrants and took them into custody shortly after they showed up at Thonburi Railway Police Station to express support for Sirawith, who is being held at the police station. Four students were taken into custody and have been released after the Bangkok Military Court turned down a request for their detention.

A fifth pro-democracy activist was arrested

While the judges deliberated on the prosecutor’s request to imprison the defendants, security officers spotted Abhisit among a dozen or so activists who rallied in front of the court building to show support for their friends, and promptly apprehended him. 

A student activist, Abhisit Supnaphaphun was then taken to Chanasongkram Police Station for a legal processing and was then transferred to Thonburi Railway Police Station for a formal extinterrogation. He spent a night in the police station’s cell room.

On January 22, 2016, he was released after the Bangkok Military Court rejected a police request to detain him. 

Peaceful activists face imprisonment

On January 13, 2016, January, the Military Court of Bangkok issued arrest warrants for Sirawit Serithiwat, Chonticha Jaeng-rew, Chanoknan Ruamsap, Abhisit Sapnaphapan, Korakoch Saengyenpan, and Thanet Anantawong at the request of the Railway Police Station in Thonburi. The order for thier arrest follows thier failure to report to Thonburi Railway Police Station, Bangkok, after being summoned on 22 December 2015 to face charges of participating in an illegal political gathering. Thanet who was charged for posting and sharing other on Facebook causing damage to the government and army , fled the country soon after the warrant was announced, though he insisted he will eventually come back to contest his charge.

If indicted by military prosecutor, the 11 young activists wil face trail beofre military, and could face up to six months of imprisonment  and /or a fine not exceeding 10,000 Bath (approximately £250) for violatations of NCPO Order No.3/2015.

These 11 activists are among a group of 36 who were detained for several hours on 7 December 2015, after the authorities intercepted a train that they were traveling on to Rajabakti Park. The planned trip was organised to campaign for investigation into alleged corruptions in the military-run construction of the Rajabhakti Park. They were subsequently taken in custody to the 9th Infantry Regiment Command, a temporary military unit in Putthamonthon Buddhist Park, Nakhon Pathom province.

While in custody, the officers recorded their information and forced them to sign a pledge vowing they would not joining political movement again and not leaving the country without permission. The 11 activists refused to sign the pledge and were accused of violating the political gathering ban according to the Head of the NCPO’s Order No. 3/2015. 
Lawyers were denied access to detainees throughout their detention. All were released on the same day.

Authorities are cracking down on activists in order to suppress protest and the online circulation of materials alleging official corruption in connection  with Rajabhakti Park. Those sharing material on corruption allegations have been charged  with treason and under lese mejeste law (which punish insult or threat to the Thai King, Queen, Prince Regent and Heir Apperent). They have also threatened scores of people with detention for pressing "like" or sharing Facebook post on the subject, and are  engaging in surveillance and harassing activists and their relatives.

Thailand Human Rights Campaign UK (THRC UK) is strongly concerned about the ongoing judicial harassment against the 11 activists, since it appears to only aim at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities, as well as their freedom of assembly, association and expression, as enshrined in international human rights instruments.

Accordingly, THRC UK is also concerned by the use of NPCO order that the case will be heard by the military court which raise the risk of an unfair trial and leaves defendants with no right to appeal.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Thailand, urging them to:

  • Investigate army abduction of student activist;
  • Not to arrest the 11 activists(naming them) and drop all the charges laid against them for peacefully calling for inquiry into allegations of official corruption;
  • Repeal NCPO Orde No. 3/2015 penalizing "political" assembly of five or more persons;
  • Put an end to all act of harassment-including judicial level-against the 11 activists, as well as against human rights defender into Thailand;
  • Allow the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, and not to penalize those legitimately exercise these rights;

General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Goverment House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit
Bangkok 10300, Thailand
Fax: +66 2282 5131
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister

Minister for Foreign Affairs
Don Pramudwinai
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Sri Ayudhya Road
Bangkok 10400, Thailand
Fax: +66 2643 5320/ +66 2643 5314
Salutation: Dear Minister

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Thailand in your respective country.

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