The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the arrest, judicial harassment, and restrictions to freedom of association faced by 13 activists of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) , namely Messrs. Rangsiman Rome , Korakoch Saengyenpan, Anan Loket, Thirayut Napnaram, Rackchart Wong-arthichart, Yuttana Dasri, Worawut Butmat, Somsakol Thongsuksai, Nantapong Panmat and MissesTueanjai Waengkham, Pimai Ratwongsa, Konchanok Tanakhun, and Phanthip Saengathit.
According to the information received, on June 23, 2016, at around 5.30 pm, the aforementioned 13 activists were arrested by military personnel at the market of Kan Keha Bang Phli Community on the eastern outskirt of Bangkok in Samut Prakan Province, while handing out leaflets and other campaign material that urged voters to reject the drat constitution in a referendum to be held on August 7, 2016.
All the activists were apprehended and taken to the Bang Sao Thong Police Station and their campaign material was confiscated. They were held in police custody overnight and were all charged with violating the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order no. 3/2558 , which bans gatherings of five or more people, and Article 61 of the 2016 Constitutional Referendum Act , which bans the dissemination of “false information” about the draft charter with the aim of influencing voters. If found guilty, all 13 could face up to 10 years of imprisonment, a fine of up to 200,000 Baht (approx. 5,125 Euro), and have their right to vote revoked by court for up to 10 years under the Referendum Act.
On June 24, 2016, the 13 activists were brought to the pre-trial remand hearing at the Bangkok Military Court, where the police asked the court to have them remanded for 12 days in order to provide sufficient time to conduct the investigation, as well as for fear of repetition of the crime. The court dismissed the motion filed by the defendants’ attorney to object to the police request and approved the pre-trial remand.
Six of the activists were released on a bail of 50,000 Baht (approx. 1,280 Euro) each, under the conditions that they must “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”.
The other seven activists did not submit bail requests, arguing that they had done nothing wrong and that they would not accept conditions for their release. They were remanded in custody at the Bangkok Remand Prison until July 5, 2016, when the defendants’ attorney is expected to file another motion to object to a further remand.
The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time that members of the NDM have been arbitrarily arrested and detained for the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. On June 25, 2015, the 14 NDM members were arrested and charged as a result of their campaign to demand democracy and were finally released on July 7, 2015, after their having been remanded in prison for 12 days .
The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest, detention, and judicial harassment against the 13 NDM activists, which only aim at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities.
The Observatory calls on the Thai authorities to drop immediately and unconditionally all charges against the 13 activists, and repeal the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2558, which fails to comply with international human rights instruments ratified by Thailand.
Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:
i.Drop all charges against the 13 NDM activists, immediately and unconditionally release the 7 NDM activists still detained, and end all acts of judicial harassment against them and all human rights defenders in Thailand;
ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the 13 activists;
iii. Repeal the Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015 banning gatherings of five or more people;
iv. Guarantee that the exercise of freedom of expression and assembly are not prosecuted under Article 116 of the Thai Criminal Code (‘sedition’);
v. Put an end to the prosecution of civilians in military courts in accordance with international human rights law that prohibits governments from using military courts to try civilians when civilian courts are functioning;
vi. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1 which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;
vii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Thailand.
· Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 282 5131
· Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax: +66 (0) 2 643 5320; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Gen Paiboon Khumchaya, Minister of Justice, Fax: +66 (0) 2 953 0503
· Pol Gen Somyot Poompanmoung, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, Fax: +66 (0) 2 251 5956 / +66 (0) 2 251 8702
· Mr. Wat Tingsamit, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand; Email: email@example.com
· H.E. Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Ambassador,Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 715 10 00 / 10 02; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· H.E. Ms. Busaya Mathelin, Ambassador, Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 648 30 66; Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Thailand in your respective country.