Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)
Three years after the last coup d’état, human rights lawyers have argued that the junta could not hold power without the support of the country’s judicial institutions. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) on 27 May 2017 released a report about the relationship between the military government and judicial institutions.
Human rights lawyers have condemned the arrest and detention of the four latest lèse majesté suspects, including a 14-year-old. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) on 20 May 2017 issued a statement on the arrest of Chirayu, Rathathamanun, Akharaphong (surnames withheld due to privacy concerns), and a 14-year-old in Khon Kaen on 19 May. According to the police, the four were arrested for allegedly burning an arch erected in honour of the late King Bhumibol in Chonnabot District of Khon Kaen on 15 May.
After over two years in jail, a man suspected of bombing a Thai court has been released on bail, since no witnesses have testified to his guilt. On 18 May 2017, Bangkok Military Court released Sansern Sriounruen after his family offered a 6 million baht land deed as surety for bail. He is one of 16 suspected of being behind the bombing of Bangkok Criminal Court on 7 March 2014.
The Criminal Court has refused to release two detainees accused of lèse majesté for sharing the Facebook post of an academic blacklisted by the junta. On 4 May 2017, the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Rd., Bangkok, denied bail requests of 790,000 and 900,000 baht for two detainees accused of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.
A provincial court in northern Thailand has dismissed charges against a local anti-junta activist accused of violating the controversial Referendum Act. The Provincial Court of Chiang Mai on 24 April 2017 acquitted Samat Khwanchai, a 63-year-old anti-establishment red shirt, indicted for alleged violation of the Referendum Act for distributing leaflets at a parking lot of Panthip Plaza Shopping Mall in Chiang Mai on 21 July 2016.
The authorities have accused three more youth activists of contempt of court for joining a peaceful gathering demanding Pai Dao Din’s release from prison. On 20 March 2017, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that the well-known anti-junta activist Sirawit ‘Ja New’ Serithiwat; Panupong Sritananuwat, an activist from the Dao Din group based at Khon Kaen University; and another law student who requested anonymity had received court notices.
Student activists from Khon Kaen University have been accused of contempt of court for participating in a peaceful gathering to demand Pai Dao Din’s release. On 17 March 2017, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that activists from the activist Dao Din group, based in Khon Kaen University, and New Generation Citizens (NGC), another political activist group in the region, received a court notice.
Pawinee Chumsri, a lawyer at Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, has won the 2017 Somchai Neelapaijit Award. Pawinee urged society to action, saying that, ‘If people don’t fight, lawyers really can’t achieve anything’. On 11 March 2017, the Somchai Neelapaijit Memorial Fund announced Pawinee Chumsri as the winner of its annual award, commending an outstanding human rights advocate.
20 villagers have been found guilty of violating the junta’s ban on public gatherings by supporting a referendum monitoring campaign. The villagers pleaded guilty, but only because of the high costs of fighting the case. On 6 March 2016, Udon Thani Military Court ruled that 20 villagers from Sakon Nakhon province were guilty of violating NCPO Head Order 3/2015, the junta’s ban on public assemblies of five people or more.
A coalition of human rights organisations has condemned the junta’s suspension of a bill aimed at criminalising state enforced torture and disappearance, arguing the legal gap facilitates human rights abuses. On 1 March 2017, a coalition of human rights groups including Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, the Cross Cultural Foundation, and the Human Rights Lawyers Association released a statement expressing alarm that the military government is taking steps backwards in the criminalisation of state enforced torture and