The 14 anti-junta activists to be released

The Thai military court has rejected a custody request concerning the 14 anti-junta activists on one of their charges. However, they still have to face trial.

At about 11:30 Tuesday, 7 July 2015, the Thai military court rejected a police custody petition to detain the 14 embattled anti-junta activists, who have been in custody since 26 June 2015.  

According iLaw, an internet platform promoting civil laws related to freedom of expression, the court’s rejection relates to the group’s political gathering on 25 June, but not the political gatherings to commemorate the coup on 22 May 2015 in Bangkok and Khon Kaen Province.      

If the military court’s decision on the other case is similar, the students will be freed. However, they will still have to stand trial for allegedly violating the junta’s orders and crimes against national security.

Since the early morning of 7 July 2015, at least 100 people gathered in front of the military court of Bangkok to support the 14 and to wait for the court’s decision whether the detained activists would be released.

Many people gathered since early morning on 7 July 2015 to call for the release of the 14 anti-junta activists

Prajak Kongkirati, a renowned political scientist and lecturer at Thammasat University, Pichit Likitkijsomboon, a lecturer at the Faculty of Economics of Thammasat, and Sirawit Serithiwat, a well-known student activist from the anti-junta Resistant Citizen group, were among the crowd who came to support the 14 activists.

“I’m not behind the students [the 14 activists], but I’m beside them,” said Prajak in front of the Bangkok Military Court.

Sunai Phasuk, a researcher from Human Rights Watch, who also came to the military court, posted on his twitter account “although the military court rejected the custody petition against the 14 they are still charged with a serious case with a penalty of up to 7 years imprisonment. What happened was just meant to improve the image [of the regime] and reduce pressure.”   

About 20-30 security officers were deployed in front of the military court to monitor the situation.   

On Monday night, 6 July 2015, many activists, academics, and others participated in an event at Thammasat University to call for the immediate release of the 14 activists.

“I’m not behind the students [the 14 activists], but I’m beside them,” said Prajak Kongkirati, a renowned political scientist and lecturer of Thammasat University, in front of the Bangkok Military Court on 7 July 2015

Since the arrest of the 14 in late June, many international organizations, such as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the European Union (EU), and many other human rights organizations issued statements in support of the 14 and urged the Thai junta to stop the crackdown on freedom of expression.

The Bangkok Military Court on 28 June granted permission to detain the 14 student activists who are accused of violating the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 7/2014, which prohibits any political gathering of five or more persons.  They were charged after holding symbolic events to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état on 22 May.

In addition, the 14 are also charged under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, the law on sedition, for holding anti-junta political activities. If found guilty, the activists face prison terms of up to seven years.

Sirawit Serithiwat, a well-known student activist from the anti-junta Resistant Citizen group, was among the crowd who came to support the 14 activists.