High profile Thai human rights defender accused of sedition

A Thai police officer has accused a board member of Amnesty International Thailand (AI Thailand) of sedition for showing support for the 14 embattled anti-junta activists.  

Baramee Chairat, a recently re-elected member of the board of AI Thailand and a coordinator of the Assembly of the Poor (AOF), told Prachatai that on Monday, 6 July 2015, he received a summons from Samranrat Police Station in Bangkok.

The summons was issued on Friday, 3 July 2015, and was sent to Baramee via post. It stipulates that he must report to Samranrat Police Station in person on Friday, 10 July 2015, at 9 am.  

According to the summons, Lt Col Phongsarit Pawangkhanan accused Baramee of offenses under Article 116 of Thailand’s Criminal Code, the law on sedition.

Article 116 of the Criminal Code states that whoever makes apparent to the public by words, writing or any other means anything which is not an act within the purpose of the constitution or which is not the expression of an honest opinion or criticism (a) in order to bring about a change in the laws or the government by the use of coercion or violence, (b) in order to raise confusion or disaffection amongst the people to the point of causing unrest in the kingdom, or (c) have people violate the law, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding seven years.

Baramee Chairat shows his summons at an event at Thammasat University, Tha Prachan Campus, on 6 July 2015 to call for the release of the 14 embattled anti-junta activists (Photo taken from Baramee's Facebook profile)

The AI Thailand board member called the summons harassment and intimidation. He said that the authorities probably summoned him because he has been supporting the 14 anti-junta activists.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. I only exercised my basic rights,” said Baramee. “I think they [the Thai junta] have no legitimacy and their actions have no justification. There are violations of freedom and basic human rights; that’s why I have to come out.”

He reported that on 25 June he was with the 14 embattled anti-junta activists to show his support as some of them are members of AI Thailand. However, he did not meet the activists as a representative of AI Thailand.

He mentioned that other people also paid a visit to the 14 activists prior to their arrest on 26 June 2015. However, he has not heard of others being summoned under the same allegation.   

“The use of the law to prosecute people like this is a gross violation of human rights,” Baramee added. “People should come out to stand for their right to freedom of expression.”

On Tuesday morning, 7 July 2015, the military court rejected a custody petition against the 14 anti-junta activists and released them without condition. However, the 14 will still be put on trial for allegedly inciting conflict and defying the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s ban on gatherings, Article 12 under Order No. 3/2015, which prohibits any political activity of five or more persons.     

The 14 are also accused of violating Article 116 for holding peaceful gatherings in Bangkok and the northeastern province of Khon Kaen to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état on 22 June 2015.