Anti-junta activist leader faces additional charge

The Thai police have filed additional charges against a well-known anti-junta youth activist leader over his role in an anti-coup gathering in February 2015.
 
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that on Tuesday, 8 March 2016, the Pathumwan Police Station in Bangkok filed additional charges against Thammasat University student activist Sirawit Serithiwat, who was abducted and reportedly ill-treated while under detention by the military earlier this year.
 
Sirawit is accused of breaching the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s Announcement No. 40/2014 for violating a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that he previously signed under duress.
 
According to the NCPO’s Announcement No. 40/2014 offenders of the Martial Law declared after the coup could be imprisoned up to two years or fined up to 40,000 baht or both if they violate the conditions of their release.
 
A poster-child of pro-democracy political activities for his non-violent acts of protest, Sirawit was forced to sign an MoU by the military promising not to participate in any political activity after he led a group of pro-democracy protesters to symbolically eat sandwiches against the coup-makers on 22 June 2014 in central Bangkok.
 
He said that, at that time, he was arrested in the late afternoon and taken to the sports centre of the Thai Army Club on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, Bangkok, where he was interrogated by officers until 1 am the next day.
 
Despite the MoU, Sirawit was one of the key leaders of a political gathering held on 14 February 2015 called ‘Luek Tang Ti Lak’ (the stolen election) in which he and several other activists were charged with violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order 7/2014, a ban on political gatherings of five or more persons.
 
Sirawit added that Col Burin Thongprapai, from the military Judge Advocate General’s Department, pressed additional charges against him considering he had already signed the MoU at that time.
 
He denied the additional charge and said that he will not cooperate with police officers during the interrogation procedures unless he is asked to testify to the court.
 
Pawinee Chumsri, TLHR lawyer, said that this is the first time that a person is charged for violating NCPO’s Announcement No. 40/2014.
 
She said that Sirawit should not have been charged with violating NCPO’s Announcement No. 40/2014 since the investigation procedure on Luek Tang Ti Lak case had already ended and Sirawit and others were already indicted in June 2015. This is against the international legal standard.
 
Despite the additional charge, Sirawit said that although he has been forced to sign a number of MoUs by the authorities, he will not be deterred from continuing with political activities against the regime.
 
“If they have the strength, then just let them sue me. I still stand firm against the tyrants of the dictatorial NCPO [National Council for Peace and Order],” Sirawit wrote on his Facebook post earlier.
 

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