[Update] Military court releases 4 anti-junta activists

The military court refused to detain the four anti-junta activists charged with violating junta’s public gathering ban after the police filed charges against them.

The Bangkok’s Military Court at 6.30pm on Monday denied the custody request submitted by the military prosecutor against the four anti-junta activists, reasoning that the four came to report to the police and there is no flight risk.

The court’s ruling was delivered two hours after the military Judge Advocate General’s Office submitted the custody request for the four to the court. Earlier, on Monday morning, the police at Pathumwan Police Station in Bangkok charged the four for defying the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 7/2014 for holding a political gathering of more than five people on 14 February. If found guilty the four could be jailed for one year and fined up to 20,000 baht.
 
The military Judge Advocate General’s Office will announce if the four will be indicted on 27 March.  

The four activists talk to the press in front of the Bangkok's military court after they were released. (From left to right) Wannakiet Chusuwan, Anon Numpa, Sirawit Serithiwat, and Pansak Srithep

The four activists are Sirawit Serithiwat, a student activist from Thammasat University, Pansak Srithep, a pro-democracy activist and the father of a boy killed by the military during the 2010 political violence, Anon Numpa, a human rights lawyer who volunteers for Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), and Wannakiet Chusuwan, a pro-democracy activist and taxi driver.

While anticipating for the military court’s ruling, around ten anti-junta student activists from Thai Student Center for Democracy (TSCD) protested in front the Bangkok’s military court where the four were held and vowed not the leave the venue until the four were set free. Villagers’ Children, another student activist group from Burapha University of the eastern Chonburi Province, also issued a statement, condemning the persecution of the four activists and the use of military court to try civilians.

At the same time, Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) issued a joint statement against the use of military courts to try civilian cases. The two organisations urged the Thai junta to cancel the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s announcements No. 37/2014 and 38/2014, which state that the military court can hold trials against civilians in cases related to national security, Article 112 of the Criminal Code or lese majeste, and violation of junta’s orders.    

Three of the four activists in front of Pathumwan Police Station in central Bangkok on 16 March 2015

On Monday morning at Pathumwan Police Station, Anon, the lawyer, requested the police to collect additional testimony on the case from four renowned anti-junta academics, Nidhi Eoseewong, Prapart Pintoptang, Chaiwat Satha-Anand, and Somchai Preechasilpakul before filing the case.

After the police decided to press charges, Anon filed a malfeasance complaint against the police because the police declined to interrogate the four witnesses suggested by Anon.

On Saturday morning, Pansak, one of the four activists, was arrested and detained for about eight hours at Pathumwan Police Station for leading a three-day march  “I Walk Therefore I Am” to campaign against the use of military courts to try civilians. The march was organised by Resistant Citizen, an anti-juntaactivist group

The four anti-junta activists in front of the military court on the afternoon of 16 March 2015. 

After eight hours’ detention, Pansak continued the march. At noon on Saturday, student activists from the Thai Student Centre for Democracy (TSCD) also marched from Thammasat University, Tha Phrachan Campus, to Pathumwan Police Station to give moral support to Pansak.   

On Sunday morning, Pansak started the march at the memorial to Samaphan Srithep, his son, who was killed during the political violence in 2010, on Ratchaprarop Road, then marched to the 1932 revolution memorial at the Royal Plaza, and Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue and ended the Sunday march at Thammasat University’s Tha Phrachan Campus at noon.

On Monday morning, the four activists performed merit-making ceremonies at Thammasat University to commemorate the 22nd birthday of Pansak’s late son then marched to Pathumwan Police station.

Military officers monitor the anti-junta activists’ march at the Royal Plaza on 15 March 2015

According to Prachatham News, in northern province of Chiang Mai, an independent artist known by the Facebook name Mit Jai Inn, walked alone from Nawarat Bridge to Wat Singh in the centre of Chiang Mai city to express his disapproval of the military courts. At around 11 pm, police in plainclothes briefly detained him, claiming that he was drinking alcohol in public.

The police reportedly threatened him with severe charges if he participated in political activities again and said “Don’t you know that [we] are under the state of curfew?”.

On Facebook, he wrote that he was merely performing his duty as a resistant citizen.  

Of the four, Anon faces additional allegations of importing false information into a computer system which may damage national security under Article 14 (2) of the Computer Crime Act. The Computer Crime charges were initially filed by the Judge Advocate General himself. If found guilty, Anon faces up to 25 years in jail and a fine of up to 500,000 baht.