Military, criminal court disagree over sedition charge of anti-junta politician

The military and criminal courts have disagreed about the jurisdiction over the case of a well-known embattled anti-junta politician charged with sedition and defying the junta’s order.

On Monday morning, 28 September 2015, the Military Court of Bangkok read out a statement from the criminal court regarding the case of Chaturon Chaisang, the former Education Minister from the Pheu Thai Party, who is charged with defying the junta’s summons, sedition, and breaking Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Code, or importing illegal information into a computer system.

According to the statement, the criminal court stated that it has jurisdiction over the case, which contradicts the military’s court earlier ruling that Chaturon should be tried by the military court.

As the two courts disagree, the Court Jurisdiction Committee formed by officials from both courts shall make a final decision on which court should be handling the case in accordance with Article 10 of the 1999 Court Jurisdiction Act.

On 27 May 2014, Chaturon was arrested at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) by military officers for refusing to report to the coup-makers. While at the FCCT, he said that he is not afraid and that he will continue civil disobedience against the regime.

The junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) spokesman Col Winthai Suvaree said then that the anti-coup politician would be tried by a military court.

Chaturon and his defence lawyer, however, last year submitted a request to the military court to have his case tried by a civilian court instead.  

Last month, Chaturon’s passport was cancelled at the request of the Royal Thai Police because he has been charged with several offenses for his anti-junta stand.

The police in June 2014 charged him with violating Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act for posting anti-coup statements on his Facebook account. He also faces charges under Article 116 of the Penal Code, the sedition law, which could land him in prison for up to seven years if found guilty, and another charge of violating a junta order.

In January 2015, military officers from the 1st Army Region Command summoned Chaturon for a discussion. He was reportedly summoned because he posted comments on Facebook and Twitter about the impeachment of Yingluck Shinawatra, the former Prime Minister ousted by the 2014 coup.

Chaturong posted a message on Facebook saying “the impeachment of Yingluck, the ex-Prime Minister, is not only an injustice that has happened to an individual or a family. It is a part of an injustice which has been done against the people, the destruction of democracy, an act of robbing the people’s authority without returning it, and the construction of an undemocratic system.”