Detention of anti-coup protesters is arbitrary

Press release

General Surayud Chulamont
Interim Prime Minister
c/o Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Bangkok, Thailand


The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) expresses its deep concern following the detention, since July 26th, of nine opposition leaders listed below :

- Chatuporn Promphan, Jakraphob Penkair, and Nattawut
Saiku, three Thai broadcaster PTV executives;
- Veera Musikapong, PTV’s President;
- Viphuthalaeng Pattanaphunthar, spokesman for the Saturday Voice against Dictatorship;
- Weng Tojirakar, adviser to the Confederation for Democracy;
- Jaran Ditthapichai, Human Rights Commissioner;
- Manit Jitjanklab, former Chief Justice of the Criminal Court;
- Apinant Vinyachai, former Thai Rak Thai Member of Parliament.

The nine individuals are currently held at Samsen police station following a request of the Criminal Court in Bangkok to detain the nine individuals for two days of questioning on charges of "holding an illegal assembly of at least 10 people that caused unrest, instigating violence, using loud speakers without permission, and resisting orders from authorities".

Police refused to grant bail to the key leaders, citing national security concerns.

Today, 27th July, they will be again presented to the Court. Police will request that they be detained for another 12 days for further questioning, and are again likely to oppose bail. Such a request can be renewed to a total of 84 days of detention. They will be moved from cells in the police station to Klong Prem prison.

The arrests come after UDD organised a public protest on Sunday, 22 July 2007, outside the home of Privy Council President, Prem Tinsulanonda. The protest was initially peaceful, and would have descended into violence after an unclear chain of event and responsibility. According to information received, the disturbance left more than 100 protesters and members of police injured.

FIDH believes these detentions are arbitrary and in violation of Thailand’s international obligations to guarantee the right to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression and opinion.

If international law enables the restriction of freedom of movement and freedom of assembly in cases of a threat to the life or security of the Nation, the UN Human rights committee specifies that : “ [States] must be able to justify not only that such a situation constitutes a threat to the life of the nation, but also that all their measures derogating from the Covenant are strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.”1 The Principle of proportionality is used by the Committee to measure the validity of the restriction.

In this situation, FIDH believes that the conditions are not met to justify a prolonged detention. Indeed, the nine opposition figures have always remained in peaceful opposition, including during previous rallies organised in Bangkok.

The circumstances of the outburst of violence at the 22nd July demonstration remain unclear and only an independent investigation will be able to determine the clear chain of event and consequently the responsibilities for the outburst. Under this situation, one could not invoke the nine leaders’ responsibility in the violence in order to justify their detention.

Thus, their prolonged detention appears to be an unaccepted restriction of their freedom of movement. Moreover, in the run-up to the referendum on the Constitution, their prolonged detention would appear as an undue sanction for the exercise of their right to freedom of expression and opinion.

We would thus urge you to ensure their prompt release and set up an independent inquiry into the events of July 22nd.

Thanking you for your attention to the present and prompt reaction.

Yours sincerely,

Souhayr Belhassen

FIDH President

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