The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about charges of sedition and violating the ban on political gatherings against Ms. Sirikan “June” Charoensiri, a human rights lawyer with the organisation Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) , in connection with her work representing 14 student activists from the Neo Democracy Movement (NDM).
According to the information received, on October 22, 2016, Ms. Sirikan was charged with sedition (Article 116 of the Criminal Code) and violating the ban on political gatherings of five of more people (Article 12 of the Head of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order 3/2015) at Bangkok’s Samranrat Police Station. The charges alleged Ms. Sirikan was an accomplice in anti-NCPO demonstrations organized by NDM student activists on June 25-26, 2015. (See Background information).
If indicted, Ms. Sirikan will be tried in a military court because the alleged acts with which she has been charged were committed prior to the enforcement of the Head of NCPO Order 55/2016. This order, issued on 12 September 2016, ends the practice of military trials of civilians for certain crimes committed after that date. If convicted, Ms. Sirikan faces up to seven years in prison.
Her first hearing has not yet been scheduled. Ms. Sirikan faces two additional charges under the Criminal Code in connection with events that followed the arrest of the 14 NDM students on June 26, 2016. (See Background information).
The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing judicial harassment against Ms. Sirikan, which aims to hinder her legitimate work as a human rights lawyer, and calls on the Thai authorities to immediately drop all charges against her.
Until all charges are dropped against Ms. Sirikan, the Observatory further urges the Thai authorities to ensure that all judicial proceedings against her are carried out in full compliance with her right to a fair trial, as provided under international law.
On June 26, 2015, police arrested 14 student activists of the Neo Democracy Movement (NDM)  pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by the Bangkok Military Court. All were charged with violating the Head of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order 3/2015, which bans political gatherings of five or more people, and Article 116 of the Criminal Code (“sedition”). Ms. Sirikan, together with seven other TLHR lawyers, assisted the 14 student activists at the Bangkok Military Court.
On the night of June 26-27, 2015, after Ms. Sirikan had finished providing legal assistance to the 14 activists, more than 10 police officers who were at the Bangkok Military Court, including Pol. Maj. Gen. Chayapol Chatchaidej, commander of the Sixth Division of Metropolitan Police Bureau, requested access to Ms. Sirikan’s car in order to search for the student activists’ mobile phones. Following Ms. Sirikan’s refusal due to the lack of a court warrant and relying on the special protection of lawyers and lawyer-client confidentiality, the police officers impounded Ms. Sirikan’s car overnight.
At 12:45pm on June 27, Ms. Sirikan filed a complaint against Pol. Maj. Gen. Chayapol Chatchaidej and others for “malfeasance” (Article 157 of the Criminal Code) for illegally impounding her car. While Ms. Sirikan was in the process of filing the complaint, a police team arrived at the site of her seized car at 3:30pm with a search warrant. Officials from the Office of Police Forensic Science accompanied the police to conduct the search.
Upon presentation of the search warrant, Ms. Sirikan agreed to open her car. The items found in the car included TLHR’s case files, the personal computers of the seven TLHR lawyers, and the personal belongings of the student activists including mobile phones. Five mobile phones belonging to the students were confiscated and placed in a sealed envelope, which was turned over to the Office of Police Forensic Science.
Ms. Sirikan subsequently returned to the Chanasongkram Police Station in Bangkok to file a second complaint against Pol. Maj. Gen. Chayapol Chatchaidej and his subordinates for “malfeasance”, despite being threatened that the police would file a counter suit against her.
On June 28, 2015, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Pol. Lt. Gen. Srivara Rangsipramkul told reporters that the police had recovered important evidence from Ms. Sirikan’s car and that they were considering whether to press charges against her.
On June 29, 2015, police visited the house of Ms. Sirikan’s parents in her hometown and asked her mother to identify Ms. Sirikan in various photos and asked her about Ms. Sirikan’s background.
On July 7, 2015, the Bangkok Military Court ordered the release of the 14 student activists. However, the charges against them remain pending.
On February 2, 2016, Ms. Sirikan received a police summons to report to Bangkok’s Chanasongkram Police Station on February 9, 2016, to hear the criminal charges filed against her under Articles 172 (“filing a false police report”) and 368 (“failure to comply with official orders”) of the Criminal Code as a result of the complaints filed by Ms. Sirikan against the police officers for “malfeasance” in June 2015.
On February 9, 2016, Ms. Sirikan went to the Chanasongkram Police Station in Bangkok and was formally charged with “failure to comply with official orders” (Article 368 of the Criminal Code) and “concealing evidence” (Article 142 of the Criminal Code).
On April 27, 2016, Ms. Sirikan was summoned to appear before the Public Prosecutor at the Subdistrict 3 Court in Dusit, Bangkok, at 10am on May 12, 2016. On that occasion, Ms. Sirikan submitted a petition letter to the Public Prosecutor describing the circumstances of the events of the night of June 26-27, 2015, as well as requesting the prosecutor to hear the accounts of more witnesses, including members of the NDM, herself, Ms. Yaowalak Anuphan (the Head of TLHR), and the inquiry official who had received the complaint for “malfeasance”. The prosecutor announced he would continue with the investigation and adjourned the hearing to July 27, 2016.
On July 27, 2016, at 9:30am, Ms. Sirikan reported to the Office of the Prosecutor of Dusit District in Bangkok to hear if the prosecutor had decided to prosecute her on charges of “concealing evidence” (Article 142 of the Criminal Code)  and “failure to comply with an official order” (Article 368 of the Criminal Code) . The Prosecutor decided to postpone the hearing to September 29, 2016, due to ongoing investigations. If found guilty of all charges, Ms. Sirikan could face up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to 6,000 baht (approximately 156 Euros).
On 27 September 2016, Ms. Sirikan received a new summons from the Thai police following accusations that she violated Article 12 of the Head of NCPO Order 3/2015, which bans political gatherings of five or more people, and Article 116 of the Criminal Code (“sedition”) . According to the summons, the accusations were made by an army officer, Lt. Col. Pongsarit Pawangkanan.
Ms. Sirikan received the summons, dated 20 September 2016, when she returned to Thailand after attending the 33rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva where she was conducting advocacy on the human rights situation in Thailand. Ms. Sirikan did not receive the earlier summons, dated 14 September 2016, that police claimed had been sent to her apartment, as she was not home at the time.
Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:
i. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Ms. Sirikan and put an end to all acts of judicial harassment against her as well as against all human rights defenders in Thailand;
ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Sirikan and all human rights defenders in Thailand;
iii. Comply with the national and international legislation safeguarding the independence of lawyers and protecting them from unlawful interference in their professional activities;
iv. Conform to 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 and 12.2;
v. 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.