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.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing judicial harassment against Ms. Sirikan Charoensiri, a human rights lawyer with the organization Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) , in connection with her work representing 14 activists of the Neo Democracy Movement (NDM)  (see background information).
According to the information received on February 2, 2016, Ms. Sirikan received a police summons dated January 29. The summons directed her to report to Bangkok’s Chanasongkram police station at 10:00 am on February 9, 2016, to hear criminal charges filed against her under Sections 172 (filing a false police report)  and 368 (failure to comply with official orders)  of the Criminal Code (see background information).
The charges are the result of a lawsuit filed by Ms. Sirikan against Thai police for “malfeasance” in June 2015. The lawsuit alleges that the police unduly obstructed her work as a lawyer. At the time Ms. Sirikan filed the lawsuit, a senior police officer had threatened her to file a counter suit against her.
The Observatory strongly condemns the judicial harassment against Ms. Sirikan, which is a blatant and calculated attempt to thwart her legitimate work as a human rights lawyer.
The Observatory calls on the Thai authorities to drop all charges against Ms. Sirikan, as well as against the 14 student activists, and to repeal decrees issued by the the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) that fail to comply with international human rights standards.
On June 26, 2015, police arrested 14 activists of the Neo Democracy Movement (NDM) pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by the Bangkok Military Court. The activists were: Mr. Rangsiman Rome, Mr. Wasant Sadesit, Mr. Songtham Kaewpanphruek, Mr. Payu Boonsopon, Mr. Apiwat Suntararak, Mr. Rattapol Supasophon, Mr. Supachai Pookhlongploy, Mr. Apisit Sapnapaphan, Mr. Panupong Sritananuwat, Mr. Suvicha Pitungkorn, Mr. Pakorn Areekul, Mr. Chatupat Boonyapatraksa , Mr. Pornchai Yuanyee and Ms. Chonticha Chaengreo. All were charged with violating the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 3/2015, which bans gatherings of five or more people, and Article 116 of the Thai Criminal Code (‘sedition’). If found guilty of sedition, the student activists face prison terms of up to seven years. In addition, if found guilty of violating the Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015, they may face up to six months in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 baht (US$280).
At 0.30 am on June 27, 2015, the Bangkok Military Court remanded the 14 student activists in custody for 12 days. The 13 men were detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison, and Ms. Chonticha Chaengreo was held at Bangkok’s Woman Correctional Institution. On July 7, the Bangkok Military Court rejected a police request to extend the detention of the 14 and ordered their release. However, the charges of violating NCPO Order No. 3/2015, which bans gatherings of more than five people, and Article 116 of the Thai Criminal Code have not been dropped.
Ms. Sirikan together with seven other TLHR lawyers assisted the 14 students at the Bangkok Military Court.
Shortly after the hearing, more than 10 police officers stationed by 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 mobile phones of the activist students. Following Ms. Sirikan’s refusal due to the lack of a court warrant and relying on the special protection of lawyers and of the lawyer-client confidentiality, the police officers arbitrarily seized Ms. Sirikan’s car by locking one of her car wheels. The police then sealed all doors with A4 paper and duck-tape and surrounding it with metal fences. Fearing that her clients’ belongings as well as the lawyers’ laptops and case files could be removed from the car, the group of TLHR lawyers decided to stay overnight to watch the car.
At 12:45 pm on June 27, Ms. Sirikan went to a police station to file a complaint against the police for “malfeasance” under Article 157 of Thai Criminal Code regarding the illegal confiscation of 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 3:30 pm with a search warrant. The police were accompanied by officials from the Office of Police Forensic Science to conduct the search.
Upon presentation of the search warrant, Ms. Sirikan, who went back on the spot, agreed to open her car. Equipment found in the car included TLHR’s case files, personal computers of the seven TLHR lawyers and personal belongings of the student activists including mobile phones. Five mobile phones belonging to the students were confiscated. The mobile phones belonging to the students were placed into an envelope and the envelope was sealed. The envelope was turned over to the custody of the Office of Police Forensic Science.
At approximately 6:00 pm, Ms. Sirikan returned to the Chanasongkram police station in Bangkok to file a second complaint against the Sixth Division of Metropolitan Police Bureau Commander Pol. Maj. Gen. Chayapol Chatchaidej and his subordinates for “malfeasance”. Ms. Sirikan and her colleague were then called into the chief police investigator’s room where the chief investigator underscored the fact that “the police had powers to search her car” and suggested that if Ms. Sirikan filed a suit, the police would file a counter suit against her. Despite the threat, at 11:00 pm, Ms. Sirikan decided to file a complaint for “malfeasance” which the police accepted.
On June 28, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Srivara Rangsipramkul told reporters police had recovered important evidence from Ms. Sirikan’s car and that the police were considering whether to press charges against her.
Finally, on June 29, police visited the house of Ms. Sirikan’s parents in her hometown and asked her mother to identify her in various photos and asked about her daughter’s background.
Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:
i. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Ms. Sirikan, as well as against the 14 student activists and put an end to 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 Ms. Sirikan, the 14 student activists, as well as of 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. Order a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the harassment of Ms. Sirikan in order to identify those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
v. Repeal the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 3/2015 banning gatherings of more than five people;
vi. Guarantee that the exercise of freedom of expression and assembly are not prosecuted under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code;
vii. 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;
viii. 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 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”;
viii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Thailand.
· 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
· 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
· Ms. Wat Tingsamit, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand; 120 Chaeng Watthana Road, Laksi, 10210, Bangkok, THAILAND; Email: email@example.com
· 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
· 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: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Thailand in your respective country.
|Geneva-Paris, February 3, 2016|
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80