Thailand: Ongoing judicial harassment against 11 activists

03/05/2016
Urgent Appeal

New information
THA 001 / 0116 / OBS 008.2
Sentencing / Temporary bail /
Judicial harassment /
Restrictions to freedom of movement
Thailand
May 3, 2016

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Anon Nampa, Mr. Sirawit Seritiwat, Ms. Kornkanok Kanta, Mr. Kititach Suman, Mr. Wisarut Anupoonkarn and Mr. Wijit Hanhaboon, six of the 11 activists [1] arrested on December 7, 2015 (see background information).

According to the information received, on April 25, 2016, at 10 am, the Bangkok Military Court held the first hearing of the trial against the above-mentioned six activists, and indicted them on charges of violating Article 12 of the Head of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 3/2015, which restricts the right to assembly or any political gathering of five or more persons without a prior official authorization [2]. It has to be noted that this case is the first to be processed under charges of violating OrderNo. 3/2015.

On the same day, at 8.20 pm, the six activists were temporarily released on bail from the Bangkok Remand Prison and the Central Women Institution, following the payment of 40,000 baht (around 1,000 euros). The conditions imposed by the court for the bail were that: (1) they must refrain from inciting or causing unrest by whatsoever means or acts in order to inflict damage or to disrupt order and peace; and (2) they are prohibited from leaving Thailand, unless permission is granted by the court. The date of the next hearing is still pending.

At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal,the other five activists arrested on December 7, 2015, were still facing charges. One of them, Mr. Thanet Anantawong, is currently in exile, while arrest warrants have been issued for Ms. Chonthicha Jaeung-Rew, Ms. Chanoknan Ruamsap, Mr. Korakot Saengyenpanand Mr. Abhisit Sapnaphapan for failing to report themselves to the prosecutor. The four remainat risk of being arrested at any time.

The Observatory strongly condemns the indictment and ongoing judicial harassment against the 11 activists, since they appear 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.

More generally, the Observatory calls on the Thai authorities to put an end to the ongoing attempts to criminalise the 11 activists, as well as to repeal the decreeson gatherings and protests that fail to comply with international human rights standards related to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

Background information:

On December 7, 2015, military authorities arrested 36 people, including student activists, during a train ride from Bangkok to Hua Hin, Prachuab Kirikhan Province. Their “advocacy trip,” named “the Train Ride to Shed Light on Fraud at the Rajabhakti Park,” sought to demand the opening of an investigation into alleged corruption in the construction of the military-sponsored Rajabhakti Park in Prachuab Kirikhan Province. The military officers claimed to have arrested and detained them in accordance with the Head of NCPO Order No. 3/2015.

While in custody, some officers recorded their personal data and forced them to sign a pledge vowing that they would not join any political movement again and that they would not leave the country without the authorities’ prior permission. Lawyers were denied access to the detainees throughout their detention. All were released on the same day.

However, 11 activists, Mr. Sirawit Seritiwat, Mr. Anon Nampa, 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, refused to sign the pledge, and were therefore accused of violating the Head of NCPO Order No. 3/2015.

On December 29, 2015, the 11 activists who had refused to sign the pledge were summoned by the Thonburi Railway police. Only the following five activists out of the 11 summoned appeared: Messrs. Kititituch Suman and Vichit Hanhaboon, Mr. Anon Nampa, Mr. Wisarut Anukulkanm, and Ms. Kornkanok Khumta. They denied all charges.

On January 13, 2016, arrest warrants were issued by the Bangkok Military Court for the six remaining activists who had failed to appear at the police station on January 8 as summoned.

On January 20, 2016, Mr. Sirawit Seritiwat was abducted by eight men wearing military uniforms outside the gate of the Thammasat University Ransgit campus in Pathumthani Province near Bangkok. He was blindfolded, forced onto a pick-up truck with covered plate and taken to an unknown area. When the car stopped, he was dragged to a grass field where he was forced to kneel down, hit on the head, and kicked. Around 1 am, he was taken to the Nimitmai police station in Bangkok, where he was held until the following morning, before being transferred again to Bangkok’s Thonburi Railway police station.

The next day, on January 21, 2016, at around 9 am, the police arrested fellow student activists Ms. Chonthicha Jaeung-Rew, Ms. Chanoknan Ruamsap, and Mr. Korakot Saengyenpan, who had shown up at the Thonburi Railway police station to show solidarity with Mr. Seritiwat.

The four student activists were held at the police station until 1:30 pm before being taken to the Bangkok Military Court where the police filed a petition requesting pre-trial detention. They were released after the Court dismissed the police request. Around the same time, Mr. Abhisit Sapnaphapan [3] was arrested in front of the Military Court and taken to the nearby Chanasongkram police station, before being transferred to the Thonburi Railway police station in relation to previous charges of violating the Head of NCPO Order No. 3/2015. Mr. Abhisit Sapnaphapan was released on January 22 at about 11:30 am after the Bangkok Military Court rejected a police request for pre-trial detention.

Actions requested:

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

· Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the 11 activists, as well as of all human rights defenders in the country;

· Drop immediately and unconditionally all charges against the 11 activists, as they only seem to be aimed at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities;

· Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against the 11 activists, as well as against all human rights defenders in Thailand so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrances;

· Repeal the Head of NCPO Order No. 3/2015, which contravenes Thailand’s human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

· 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:

Article 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”; and

· More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Thailand.

Addresses:

· Prime Minister, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Government House, 1 Phitsanulok Road, Dusit, 10300, Bangkok, THAILAND; Fax: +66 (0) 2 282 5131
· Minister of Interior, Gen Anupong Paochinda, Asatang Road, Ratchabophit, 10200, Bangkok, THAILAND
· Minister of Foreign Affairs, Don Pramudwinai, Sri Ayutthaya Building, 443 Sri Ayutthaya Road, Phaya Thai, 10400, Bangkok, THAILAND; Fax: +66 (0) 2 643 5320; Email: minister@mfa.go.th
· Minister of Justice, Gen Paiboon Khumchaya, 120 Chaeng Watthana Road, Laksi, 10210, Bangkok, THAILAND; Fax: +66 (0) 2 953 0503
· Pol Gen Somyot Poompanmoung, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, 1st Building, 7th Floor, Rama I Road, Pathumwan, 10330, Bangkok, THAILAND; Fax: +66 (0) 2 251 5956 / +66 (0) 2 251 8702
· Mr. Wat Tingsamit, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand; 120 Chaeng Watthana Road, Laksi, 10210, Bangkok, THAILAND; Email: help@nhrc.or.th
· Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, rue Gustave Moynier 5, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, Tel: + 41 22 715 10 10; Fax: + 41 22 715 10 00 / 10 02; Email:mission.thailand@ties.itu.int
· Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, 2 Sq. du Val de la Cambre, 1050 Ixelles, Belgium, Tel: + 32 2 640 68 10; Fax: + 32 2 648 30 66; Email: thaibxl@pophost.eunet.be

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

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