Suspended sentences for anti-junta activists

30 03 2013

The Bangkok Post reports that former senator Jon Ungphakorn and nine other activists, including Phairoj Pholpet, a Law Reform Commissioner, National Broadcasting and Telecommunications commissioner Supinya Klangnarong and Foundation for Consumers secretary-general Saree Aongsomwang, “have been sentenced to suspended prison terms for trespassing on the grounds of parliament during a protest in 2007.” The names of the 10 are here. The background to the saga, as summarized by the AHRC is:

Following the military coup on 19 September 2006 and the suspension of the 1997 Constitution, the military council formed by the coup leaders established a “National Legislative Assembly” (NLA) to act as an interim unicameral legislature for enacting legislation until parliamentary elections were held under a new constitution. All members of the NLA were selected by the military council.

After the promulgation of the 2007 constitution on 24 August 2007, the NLA continued to function as the legislature, and during the last two months before the general parliamentary election of 23 December 2007, the NLA rushed through the passage of a number of extremely controversial laws affecting human rights, civil liberties, community rights, and social justice. This was done despite strong opposition and protests by many civil society groups. The most controversial of these was Internal Security Act, a law demanded by the military to allow them to hold special powers to deal with national security issues after the return to elected civilian government. Other controversial laws passing through the NLA included legislation on privatisation of state universities, water management, and state enterprises.

On 11-12 September 2007 the Thai NGO Coordinating Committee (NGO-COD) with Jon Ungphakorn … serving as Chair and Pairoj Polpetch … as Vice-Chair held a consultation involving a number of civil society networks and labour union leaders which ended with a public statement and press conference calling on the NLA to abandon consideration of 11 controversial bills considered to violate the rights, freedoms, and welfare of the public according to the 2007 Constitution….

On 29 November 2007, a mass demonstration was held outside the parliament building and grounds, demanding that the NLA immediately abandon consideration of the 11 controversial bills, requesting members of the NLA to consider resigning their office , and asking members of the public to sign a petition for the NLA to cease all legislative activities in view of the coming elections for a democratic parliament.

On 12 December 2007 another mass demonstration was held outside the parliament building and grounds, this time involving well over one thousand demonstrators. At around 11.00 a.m. over 100 demonstrators climbed over the metal fence surrounding the parliament building using make-shift ladders to enter the grounds of parliament. Then, around 50-60 demonstrators were able to push their way past parliamentary guards to enter the lobby in front of the NLA meeting chamber where the NLA was in session. They then sat down peacefully in concentric circles on the lobby floor. Negotiations with some members of the NLA and with a high-ranking police official ensued, until at around 12.00 noon the demonstrators were informed that the NLA meeting had been adjourned. The demonstrators then left the parliament building and grounds, returning to join the demonstrations outside the premises.

Further demonstrations were held outside the parliament building and grounds amidst tight police security on 19 December 2007. Despite all the protests, the NLA passed the Internal Security Act which remains in force to this day. Some of the other controversial laws were also passed.

More details can also be found here.

Jon and the nine activists were accused of inciting unrest and trespass. The “Criminal Court yesterday sentenced Jon and five other defendants to two years each in prison and a 9,000 baht fine. The sentences were then reduced by one third because of their cooperation during the trial to one year and four months and a 6,000 baht fine.” The others were “sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 9,000 baht. Their jail sentences were reduced to four months, and the fines to 6,000 baht.” The court suspended the prison terms for two years.

Jon reportedly “insisted he and his colleagues acted out of goodwill. “Our conscience told us to prevent harmful laws from being passed but we never intended to resort to violent means, engage in non-peaceful demonstrations or harm anyone…”. Phairoj “said the demonstration was a form of freedom of assembly and expression.”

It seems that protecting the military junta’s laws remains important.



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