Thai court delivers 1st verdict for anti-coup protester

A Thai court on Thursday morning sentenced an anti-coup protester to two months in jail and a fine of 6,000 baht, but since the defendant pleaded guilty, the jail term was suspended. 
 
Weerayuth Kongkanatan, 49, was arrested on 23 May 2014, a day after the coup, while he was protesting against the coup d’état at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), near Siam Square. 
 
“On the night of 23 May, the defendant and 500 accomplices, who are still at large, held an assembly to oppose the coup. This was a violation of an NCPO order,” read the verdict. 
 
At least three others, including Thanapol Eawsakul, the editor of Same Sky journal, and Apichat P., a law graduate law student who was later charged with lèse majesté, were arrested along with Weerayuth. 
 

Military arrests anti-coup protesters at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center (BACC) on 23 May 2014

 
The Pathum Wan District Court found Weerayuth guilty under martial law and Order Number 7 of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the junta’s administrative body. 
 
Order Number 7 states that whoever holds an assembly of more than five people will face a jail term up to one year and/or a fine of up to 20,000 baht.
 
Given that this is not a serious crime, the defendant has a permanent residence, and the defendant has to look after his family, the court said, the jail term is therefore suspended for one year.  
 
After his arrest, Weerayuth was detained for seven days at the Crime Suppression Division before the police charged him with illegal assembly. He was released on bail on 30 May. 
 
Weerayuth was tried in a civilian court, unlike protesters charged after 25 May, when the junta declared that cases related to lèse majesté, national security and defying the junta will be tried in military courts.
 
At least four cases related to the coup are before the civilian courts, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a group of voluntary lawyers giving consultations to people affected by the coup. 
 
Weerayuth told Prachatai after learning the verdict that it was the first time that he had joined a political rally. He joined the anti-coup rally on 23 May to demand the return of democracy and express disapproval of the coup d’état. “If I had known that opposing the coup would land me in jail, I would have not gone there.” 
 
He added that he was arrested because he angrily scolded the military officers. The military officers then grabbed him abruptly. The officer thought he wanted to flee, but actually he wanted to pick up his glasses which had fallen to the ground, said Weerayuth.