Human rights defender denies sedition charge

A human rights defender charged with sedition for supporting the 14 anti-junta activists has denied the charges while a large crowd of supporters demanded that the authorities drop the charges against him.

Baramee Chairat, a recently re-elected member of the board of Amnesty International Thailand (AI Thailand) and a coordinator of the Assembly of the Poor (AOP), on Wednesday morning, 5 August 2015, went to Samranrat Police Station for interrogation.

In early July, the police issued a summons to Baramee for interrogation after Lt Col Phongsarit Pawangkhanan accused him of offences under Article 116 of Thailand’s Criminal Code, the law on sedition, for visiting the 14 anti-junta student activists prior to their arrest on 26 June 2015.

Baramee at Samranrat Police Station on 5 August 2015 (courtesy of Rangsiman Rome)

The summons initially summoned him to Samranrat Police Station on 10 July, but it was postponed until today.

According to Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen, Baramee’s defence lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the human rights defender denied all charges during the interrogation, which lasted from 10 to 11:20 am.

The police did not submit a custody petition to detain Baramee and released him after the interrogation. His lawyer will compile additional testimony from Baramee for the police within 10 days.   

About 50 people, some whom are members of AOP, came to give Baramee moral support at the police station. The AOP members also read out a statement demanding that the authorities drop all charges against Baramee. Rangsiman Rome and Chonticha Jangrew, two well-known activists who are among the 14 anti-junta activists recently released, were among the crowd who came to support him.

A large crowd who came to support Baramee at the police station on 5 August 2015 (courtesy of Rangsiman Rome)

Before the interrogation, Baramee said to the crowd, “I think the government is illegitimate and this sort of measure is illogical. It is a violation of basic human rights and freedoms, which I have to protest against.”

Baramee’s supporters also held a blessing ceremony for him at the police station. Pol Lt Pipat Boonphet, the Director of Samranrat Police Station also joined the ceremony.        

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.