Thai authorities briefly detain Karen activist for protesting junta’s forest policy

The Thai military detained a northern activist for holding a symbolic political event to condemn the junta’s forest policy in the northern province of Chiang Mai. Meanwhile, three other activists were detained by police in Bangkok for staging another protest against the junta.

At around 5 pm on Saturday the military detained Pruet Odochao, a Karen activist from a group called People’s Group for Northern Reform, for two hours after he participated in a symbolic political activity of lighting candles in front of the Three Kings Monument in central Chiang Mai.

Pruet Odochao, centre, lights a candle on Saturday afternoon in front of the Three Kings Monument in central Chiang Mai together with about 30 other activists.

The military officers reportedly searched his belongings and checked his cell phone before releasing him after two hours’ detention.

Around 30 people joined the event at the square. The event was held after the group held a discussion on human rights, community rights, decentralisation, and other public policies of the new draft constitution on Saturday morning, with the participation of about 120 people from eight northern Thai provinces.

Pruet said that he just wanted to urge the junta to solve the problems facing Karen communities in northern Thailand, many of which are affected by the forest protection policies of the junta.

The military releases Pruet after a two-hour long detention on Saturday.

In June 2014, the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order issued Orders No. 64/2014 and No. 67/2014. While the first order states that the encroachers into protected areas and poachers of forest goods shall face strict legal measures, the latter stipulates that the poor and people who settled in protected areas prior to the enactment of the policies would not be affected.

He added that he is now unsure whether he can continue to campaign on the issue after his brief detention.

On the same day, the police arrested Akarakit Nunchan, Sarinee Bunchuu, and Worachat Pitakpim, three activists from a group called Serichon Thailand 58, at the Victory Monument in central Bangkok and took them to Phayathai Police Station on Saturday morning.

The three closed their mouths with a t-shirt showing ‘Serichon Thailand 58’ and a black dove to symbolically protest against repression under the junta. The group also prepared to distribute a statement, but were stopped by the police before they could do so.

Akarakit Nunchan, the leader of Serichon Thailand 58 being arrested by police at the Victory Monument on Saturday morning (photo courtesy of Students Defending Democracy Group)

According to Akarakit, the leader of the group, they just wanted to urge the junta to allow more public participation in reform process of the country.