Thailand: Students and academics arrested for organizing democracy talk

Press release

Paris, 19 September 2014: Thailand’s military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) must immediately stop harassing and arbitrarily detaining students and academics who exercise their right to freedom of expression, FIDH and its member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) said today.

On 18 September, police in Pathumthani Province, located just north of Bangkok, stopped a panel discussion about democracy and arrested four academics and three students who had organized the event.

Yesterday’s arrest of students and academics is yet another ominous reminder of the military junta’s intolerance for any dissenting voices,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. In light of the ongoing arbitrary arrests and severe restrictions on freedom of expression, the junta’s claim that it respects human rights is a poorly-disguised pretense,” Mr. Lahidji added.

Academics Nithi Eeosiwong, Prajak Kongkirati, Janjira Sombatphunsiri, Chaowarit Chaosengrat and students Worrawut Wongsamart, Rattapon Supasopon, and Sorrawit Serivivat were arrested during the presentation of a university-sanctioned event titled “Democracy Classroom: Fall of Foreign Dictators” at the Rangsit campus of the prestigious Thammasat University. The purpose of the event was to discuss the demise of dictatorial regimes around the world. After being arrested, they were taken to the Klong Luang police station where they were interrogated for several hours and denied access to a legal representative. They were all released without being charged.

The 18 September arrests follow a similar act of repression earlier in the month. On 2 September, the NCPO forced human rights activists to cancel a panel discussion titled “Access to Justice in Thailand: Currently Unavailable.” Organizers had planned to hold the public event at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in Bangkok to launch a report detailing the human rights situation in Thailand during the first 100 days of military rule. No one was arrested on that occasion.

The NCPO must stop committing human rights violations. Banning public discussions about democracy and human rights goes against Article 4 of the junta-approved interim constitution, which protects all rights and liberties guaranteed by international treaties to which Thailand is a State party,” said UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn.

In an attempt to stifle all dissent since seizing power on 22 May 2014, the NCPO has summoned or arbitrarily detained scores of academics, writers, and journalists. According to the Internet Dialogue on Law Reform (iLaw), as of 13 September, military and police had arrested at least 280 people, including 105 in connection with peaceful anti-coup demonstrations.

Press contacts:
FIDH: Mr. Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris)
FIDH: Ms. Audrey Couprie (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33 6 48 05 91 57 (Paris)
UCL: Mr. Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn (Thai, English) - Tel: +66890571755 (Bangkok)

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