Supporters rally to visit jailed anti-junta activists

Amnesty International and the National Human Rights Commission visited the 14 embattled anti-junta activists at Bangkok prisons on Thursday, while about a hundred people gathered to offer moral support to the jailed activists.
 
The activists, mostly students, protested against the junta and had been arrested for their nonviolent protests on 26 June. 
 
On Thursday, two representatives from Amnesty International visited the activists and issued an urgent action to call for the activists’ release.
 
The arrested students are “prisoners of conscience deprived of their liberty solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights,” states Amnesty International.
 
The urgent action also calls on people worldwide to write to the Thai authorities calling on authorities to 
drop charges against the activists and release them immediately,
urge that the jailed activists are not tortured or ill-treated, have access to lawyers of their choice as well as visits from family members and adequate medical care,
and to repeal laws which restrict right to peaceful assembly “in accordance with Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law.”
 
After visiting the 13 jailed activists at the Bangkok Remand Prison, in the afternoon a commissioner from the National Human Rights Commission visited Bangkok Remand Prison (male prison) and the Central Women’s Correctional Institution to see the activists. 
 
Chonthira Jaengrew, or Lukkate, being the only jailed female activist, is detained in a separate facility from her other friends but in the same Bangkok Remand Prison compound. 
 
Commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara said that the NDM is completely unrelated to violence and is protesting for the common good of society.
 
Niran said that nonviolence is one of the NDM group’s five democratic principles, so the group is calling for a space to peacefully express political views different from the current authorities. “The government must allow different political thought to be expressed without being faced by soldiers,” said the commissioner.
 
After his visit with Chonthira, Niran confirmed that she, like the rest of her friends, would not be pleading for bail. Refusal of bail shows that the junta is illegitimate in its incarceration, he states. 
 
However, the commissioner expressed concern about Chonthira separation from her peers, since it prevents the group from discussing their goals together and raises questions of safety. He said that Chonthira had been physically wounded ever since the anti-junta protest at the BACC on May 22.  
 
Chonthira has reportedly been moved to Prison Hospital this morning due to her spinal cord compression. 
 
Niran also mentioned that when the activists were students, they held activities in Isaan. Their down-to-earth experience with local farmers and miners had made them aware of the problems in Thai society, and inspired them to do what they could to criticize the powers-at-be. 
 
As for further action in freeing the activists, Niran states that on Friday activists’ parents and lawyers as well as academics will meet at the prison to investigate further. Next Wednesday, representatives from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights will arrive to investigate with related police and military officials. 
 
Worachet Pakeerut, law professor at Thammasat, was one of many visitors to the jailed activists.
 
Worachet says that no one can prevent the students from their peaceful expression of different political views, and that even their parents respect their decision to do so. "Therefore, the media's role is to look to Thailand's painful history, help the public understand why the students have been arrested, and find the solution to this situation," said the law academic. 
 
The professor also relayed the health concerns faced by some of the jailed activists. Worachet told media that a couple of the students have diarrhea up to eight times a day due to their stay here, but most are in good health.  
 
“I’m visiting them and speaking on their behalf as their teacher," said the professor. "In fact, one of the students in there just got his grades and it turns out he passed my class, so I'm really happy about that.”
 
Meanwhile, about 300 academics under the Group of Teachers Concerned about the Arrested Students released a statement calling for 
  1. the junta to release of the 14 activists without condition, since the arrest is undemocratic and unlawful, 
  2. for authorities to move the activists from Bangkok Remand Prison to be held at the Bang Khen Police School instead, since they are political prisoners and not criminals, and 
  3. for the junta to cease intimidation of family, friends, and teachers of the arrested 14. Forms of intimidation include unofficial house calls and summons as well as pressure to cease all political activity. 
 
The New Democracy Movement (NDM) also distributed a statement at the Bangkok Remand Prison Thursday morning, detailing the intimidation faced by the NDM and the academics group. 
 
According to their statement, since the arrest of their groups activists on 27 June, men dressed in military garb had been continuously harassing and intimidating students at their houses, professors at their workplace, and spying on citizens, causing fear for citizens’ safety. 
 
Furthermore the NDM insists that this strain of intimidation has been happening since the military coup on 22 June 2014. The  junta has been “sharpening their knife” against the flesh and blood of citizens, states the statement. 
 
The NDM demands that such intimidation cease, as well as the release of their comrades. “Citizens must rise up and protect their basic rights against the junta’s unbounded power, the use of which has shown that the junta has no intention of returning democracy to the people,” states the report. 
 
Jutamas Srihutthaphadungkit, an NDM member who as at the prison supporting her group members, confirms that the activists will not post for bail, since public awareness is gaining ground. She states that universities nationwide are already holding activities calling for the release of the activists.
 
“If you think the state is misusing their authority and you agree with our five democratic principles, please come out and support our friends to fight on.” 
 
Moreover, a representative from the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), a human rights organization, based in Bangkok, also visited the activists at the cell and said that the hasty arrest at night and the unsolicited confiscation of phones and cars, abused power in such a way that made it difficult for human rights organizations to step in and help.
 
“The exercise of these unlawful charges is just flat-out bullying,” says the CrCF representative a human rights organization, based in Bangkok. “To push such harsh punishments onto human rights activists is just an example of the strong bullying the weak.”
 
 
Around 100 supporters gather to visit the jailed anti-junta student activists at the Bangkok Remand Prison on 2 July. 
 

Worachet Pakeerut, Thammasat professor and law academic from the Nitirat Group, speaks to media eafter his visit with the 13 activists at Bangkok Remand Prison on 2 July. 
 

Niran Pitakwatchara, National Human Rights commissioner, speaks about the conditions faced by the only jailed female activist, Chonthira Jaengrew after his visit at the Central Women’s Correctional Institute on 2 July.