Drop charges against pro-democracy activists

30 06 2016

The Asian Human Rights Commission has launched an appeal for the release from prison of 13 pro-democracy activists accused of violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings when they were distributing flyers about the upcoming draft constitution referendum, urging a No vote.

The appeal letter and other appeal information can be accessed here.

THAILAND: Drop charges against pro-democracy activists

30 June 2016

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) regarding military officers and police officers harassing activists who exercise their right to expression and peaceful assembly. On 23-24 June 2016, the police have accused 13 pro-democracy activists of violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings by distributing campaign flyers for the upcoming draft constitution referendum.

CASE NARRATIVE:

The date 7 August 2016 is scheduled for the constitutional referendum by the Thai Military government and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the junta-ruling body. In the run-up to the referendum, the New Democracy Movement (NDM), a group of student activists and other activists, formed at the first anniversary of the coup d’état in late June 2015, has started their campaign to encourage people to cast their votes to reject the draft constitution as they are of the opinion that the draft is undemocratic.

On 23 June 2016, at around 5:30 p.m., combined forces of police and Military arrested the NDM student activists and members of the Triumph Labour Union. This arrest took place in the market of Kan Keha Bang Pli Community in Samut Prakan Province. All 13 of them were arrested while they were distributing leaflets, fliers, and documents to passersby.

The documents give a little information about the draft Constitution and explain the reasons why people should reject it. All of them were apprehended and taken to the Bang Sao Thaong Police Station. Their campaign materials were confiscated including: large fliers bearing the text “Vote No”; booklets, titled the “Arguments and explanations about the essence of the Draft Constitution, the ten things you should know”; large fliers titled “Kao Kham” (Transcending) by the New Democracy Movement (NDM); brochures explaining how to register to vote outside one’s constituency; a form to register or to unregister to vote outside one’s constituency; as well as one megaphone. They were detained in police custody overnight and six of them who requested bail during the police stage were denied bail.

On 24 June 2016, all the 13 were brought to the pre-trial remand hearing at the Bangkok Military Court. Pol Cap Withoon Pengbuppha, the police investigator of Bang Sao Thaong Police Station, asked the Court to have them remanded for 12 days, claiming it necessary for questioning ten more witnesses and fearing the reoccurrence of the crime, which he argued may post an obstacle or jeopardize the investigation.

Meanwhile, the alleged offenders’ attorneys filed a motion to object to the remand request, citing that the Order of the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2015 is not an applicable law and its Article 12 (ban on any political gathering of five persons or more) is a restriction on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are recognized in the Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party. Also, the right to freedom of expression should not be criminalized. In addition, the NCPO Announcement no. 37/2014 which specifies the jurisdiction of the Military Courts imply states that the Military Court can only adjudicate cases relating to offences against the Announcements or Orders of the NCPO, not the Order of the Head of the NCPO.

Therefore, the Bangkok Military Court has no power to review the case and to conduct the remand hearing in this case. Nevertheless, the Military Court persisted to issue a writ to have the 13 alleged offenders remanded, claiming that they were just arrested and more time was needed for police investigation including several more witnesses to be interviewed and deeming that the objection of the alleged offenders was a legal defence. Thus, the Court dismissed the objection to the remand motion, and approved a 12-daypre-trial remand, as submitted by police.

However, six alleged offenders have been released by the order of the Military Court, by placing bail bond at 50,000 Baht each. They, however, have to comply with the conditions set forth by the Military Court, including to “not get involved with any act aimed to instigate, disrupt public order, persuade, compel people to rise up by any means possible in order to make possible any public assembly which may bring about public disorder or cause any harm or infringement on peace, order or the moral high ground of the people or any act which may induce people to commit a legal offence”.

At present, the other seven students and activists are held in custody at the Bangkok Remand Prison. They all refused to apply for bail, stating that they had done nothing wrong and should not be subject to the jurisdiction of the Military Court. They did not want to accept the conditions attached to the release, as dictated by the Military Court. On 5 July2016, when the first period of remand ends, their attorneys shall file another motion to object further remand.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The following are the names of the arrested activists:
1. Mr. Rangsiman Rome, 24 years, currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison
2. Mr. Korakoch Saengyenpan, 23 years, currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison
3. Ms. Tueanjai Waengkham, 43 years, on temporary release with conditions imposed by Military Court
4. Mr. Anan Loket, 21 years, currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison
5. Mr. Thirayut Napnaram, 28 years, currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison
6. Ms. Pimai Ratwongsa, 43 years, on temporary release with conditions imposed by Military Court
7. Mr. Rackchart Wong-arthichart, 25 years, on temporary release with conditions imposed by Military Court
8. Mr. Yuttana Dasri, 27 years, currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison
9. Mr. Somsakol Thongsuksai, 20 years, currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison
10. Ms. Konchanok Tanakhun, 45 years, on temporary release with conditions imposed by Military Court
11. Mr. Worawut Butmat, 23 years, on temporary release with conditions imposed by Military Court
12. Ms. Phanthip Saengathit, 22 years, on temporary release with conditions imposed by Military Court
13. Mr. Nantapong Panmat, 24 years, currently detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison

And, the following are the details of the charges:

1. THE HEAD OF THE NCPO ORDER NO.3/2015 ON MAINTAINING PUBLIC ORDER AND NATIONAL SECURITY

Article 12. Political gatherings of five or more persons shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding ten thousand Baht, or both, unless permission has been granted by the Head of the NCPO or an authorized representative.

Anyone who commits an offence under paragraph one who voluntarily agrees to receive corrective training from Peacekeeping Officers for a period not exceeding seven days may be released with or without the conditions stipulated in Article 11 paragraph 2 at the discretion of Peacekeeping Officers. The case will then be considered closed according to Section 37 of the Code of Criminal Procedure as amended by the Criminal Code Amendment Act (No. 16), 1986. Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with conditions of release shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding ten thousand Baht, or both.

2. THE CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM ACT B.E. 2559 (2016)

Article 61 states any person who commits following acts;

(1) To cause confusion to affect orderliness of voting
(2) […]
Anyone who publishes text, images or sound, through either newspaper, radio, television, electronic media or other channels, that is either untruthful, harsh, offensive, rude, inciting or threatening, with the intention that voters will either not exercise their right to vote, or vote in a certain way, or not vote, shall be considered as a person causing confusion to affect orderliness of voting.

Any person commits the act to cause confusion to affect orderliness of voting shall be
punished with imprisonment of not exceeding ten years and a fine of up to 200,000 Baht.
The Court may order to revoke his/her right to vote of not exceeding five years.

If the offences are committed by a group of five persons or more, each person shall be punished with imprisonment of one to ten years, a fine from 20,000 to 200,000 baht and a10-year revocation of voting right by court.

3. THE NATIONAL IDENTITY CARD ACT B.E.2526 (1983)

Section 17 states that a holder of a national identification card who fails to produce the card or equivalent document upon an official request shall be punished with fine not exceeding to 200 Baht.

4. THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE COUNCIL FOR DEMOCRATIC REFORM (CDR) NO. 25 ON THE PROCEDURE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM DECLAREDON 29 SEPTEMBER 2006

Any person who is accused of committing criminal offences has a duty to give fingerprints or footprints in criminal proceedings as ordered by prosecutors, judges or police investigators. Whoever violates such order shall be punished with imprisonment of not exceeding 6 months and/or fine of not exceeding 1,000 Baht for disobeying the order of the officials by refusing to give their fingerprints.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately withdraw the case and end any ongoing investigation into the20 activists.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion expression and seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.


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