Thailand : Provisional release and ongoing judicial harassment of the 14 student activists with the Neo Democracy Movement

17/07/2015
Appel urgent

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the provisional release of the 14 student activists with the Neo Democracy Movement (NDM).

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New Information
THA 002 / 0715 / OBS 055.1

Threats / Release /
Judicial harassment
Thailand
July 16, 2015

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 provisional release of the 14 student activists with the Neo Democracy Movement (NDM) [1], Messrs Chatupat Boonyapatraksa, Apiwat Suntararak, Payu Boonsopon, Panupong Srithananuwat, Suvicha Tipangkorn, Supachai Pukrongploy and Wasant Sadesit, who are also members of the Dao Din group [2] at Khon Kaen University, and Ms. Chonticha Chaengreo and Messrs Rangsiman Rome, Songtham Kaewpanphruek, Rattapol Supasophon, Apisit Sapnapaphan, Pakorn Areekul, and Pornchai Yuanyee, student activists from various universities in Bangkok.

According to the information received, on July 7, 2015, the Bangkok Military Court rejected the police request for a 12-day extension of the pre-trial detention of the 14 student activists. The student activists were released without any conditions on the morning of July 8, 2015.

The 14 students had been arrested on June 26 in execution of an arrest warrant issued by the Bangkok Military Court in relation to the peaceful protests held on June 25 in Bangkok. However, the charges of violating National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 3/2015, which bans gatherings five or more people and Article 116 of the Thai Criminal Code (‘sedition’) have not been dropped. If found guilty of sedition, the student activists could face up to seven years in prison. In addition, they face up to six months in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 baht (EUR 282) if found guilty of violating NCPO Order No. 3/2015.

The Observatory recalls that the 14 student activists had been previously arrested on May 22, 2015 (see background information).

The Observatory welcomes the release of the 14 student activists but reiterates its calls on the Thai authorities to drop all charges against them, to refrain from threatening and harassing their lawyers, and to repeal NCPO Order No. 3/2015, which fails to comply with Thailand’s international legal obligations.

Background information :

On May 22, 2015, Thai police arrested student activists Messrs Chatupat Boonyapatraksa, Apiwat Suntararak, Payu Boonsopon, Panupong Srithananuwat, Suvicha Tipangkorn, Supachai Pukrongploy, Wasant Sadesit, who are also members of the Dao Din group, and Mr. Rangsiman Rome, Mr. Songtham Kaewpanphruek, Mr. Rattapol Supasophon, Mr. Apisit Sapnapaphan, Mr. Pakorn Areekul, Mr. Pornchai Yuanyee and Ms. Chonticha Chaengreo, in connection with their participation into peaceful protests held in Khon Kaen and in Bangkok to mark the first anniversary of the military coup.

On May 23, 2015, the seven students from Khon Kaen University were released on bail with charges by the Khon Kaen police of violating the Head of NCPO Order No. 3/2015.

The seven student activists from various universities in Bangkok, were also released without charges on the same date.

On June 24 and 25, 2015, the 14 student activists took part in peaceful rallies in Bangkok calling for an end to military rule.

On June 26, 2015, police arrested the 14 student activists in execution of an arrest warrant issued by the Bangkok Military Court related to the rally of June 25. They were charged with violating the Head of NCPO Order No. 3/2015 and Article 116 of the Thai Criminal Code (‘sedition’).

At 0.30 am on June 27, 2015, the Bangkok Military Court granted the remand in custody of the 14 student activists for 12 days (which can be extended to up to 48 days with renewals of 12 days at a time). From 27 June to 7 July 2015, the 13 men were detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison and Ms. Chonticha Chaengreo was held at the Woman Correctional Institution.

Ms. Sirikan Charoensiri, a human rights lawyer with the organization Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) [3], together with seven other TLHR colleagues were on duty and assisted as lawyers the 14 students at Bangkok’s Ratchawang Police Station and the Bangkok Military Court.

Shortly after the hearing, more than 10 police officers stationed by the Bangkok Militarty Court, including Pol. Maj. Gen. Chayapol Chatchaidej, commander of the Sixth Division of Metropolitan Police Bureau, requested access to Ms. Sirikan’s car to search for the mobile phones of the 14 activist students. Following Ms. Sirikan’s refusal due to the lack of a court warrant and to 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 and sealing all doors with A4 papers and duck-tape, and surrounding it with iron 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 over-night to watch the car.

At 12:45 pm on the same day, 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. Before the complaint was accepted, another police team arrived at 3:30 pm where the car was parked, with a search warrant and officials from the Office of Police Forensic Science to conduct the search.

Once a search warrant had been presented, Ms. Sirikan accepted to open her car. Equipment found in the car included TLHR’s case files, personal computers of TLHR lawyers and personal belongings of the student activists including mobile phones. Five mobile phones belonging to the students were forfeited. As the search was taking place, one police official took five mobile phones outside of the crime scene. Fifteen minutes later, he returned with five mobile phones and put them into an envelope and sealed it. The envelope was then taken to the Office of Police Forensic Science.

At approximately 6 pm, Ms. Sirikan went back to Chanasongkram Police Station in Bangkok, to bring a 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 he discussed that the police had powers to search her car and suggested that if she filed a suit, the police would file a counter suit against her. Despite these threats, at 11 pm, Ms. Sirikan decided to file a complaint for “malfeasance” and the police finally accepted to record the complaint.

On June 28, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Srivara Rangsipramkul told reporters that important evidence had been found in Ms. Sirikan’s car and that the police was considering whether or not to press charges against her. The interview took place before the seized mobile phones had been examined by forensic police, which was scheduled for June 29, 2015, and had to wait for a TLHR lawyer to witness the opening of sealed envelopes containing the five phones.

On June 29, the 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.

Actions requested :

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to :

i. Drop all the charges 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 the 14 student activists, and of Ms. Sirikan, as well of as all human rights defenders in Thailand ;

ii. 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 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” ;

ix. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Thailand.

Addresses :

Prime Minister, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Government House, 1, Phitsanulok Road, Dusit, 10300, Bangkok, THAILAND ; Fax : +66 (0) 2282 5131
Minister of Interior, Gen Anupong Paochinda, Asatang Road, Ratchabophit, 10200, Bangkok, THAILAND
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gen Tanasak Patimapragorn, Sri Ayutthaya Building, 443 Sri Ayutthaya Road, Phaya Thai, 10400, Bangkok, THAILAND ; Fax : +66 (0) 2 643-5320 ; E-mail : 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
Ms. Amara Pongsapich, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand ; 120, Chaeng Watthana Road, Laksi, 10210, Bangkok, THAILAND ; E-mail : 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.

***

Geneva-Paris, July 16, 2015

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.

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