2 of 8 junta critics abducted by military accused of lѐse majesté

The junta have charged eight dissidents abducted by the military with sedition while two of the eight are also accused of lѐse majesté. Meanwhile, the police are gathering evidence against key red shirt figures allegedly linked to some of the eight.     

At 6:30 pm on Thursday, 28 April 2016, at the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, Deputy Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police, and staff from the military Judge Advocate General’s Department held a press briefing on the detention of eight individuals who were abducted by the military on Wednesday morning.

The briefing was held after the Military Court issued arrest warrants for the eight and one other person.

The nine are: Supachai Saibutr, a photographer, Harit Mahaton, former reporter of Matichon and independent writer, Noppakao Kongsuwan, a person affiliated with the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), the main red shirt faction, Natthika Worathaiwich, Chaituch Rattanachan, Worawit Saksamutnan, Yothin Mankongsanga, Thonnawan Buranasiri and Kannasit Tangboonthina.

Out of the nine facing the arrest warrants, Chaituch is reportedly abroad.

At the briefing, the authorities announced that the nine are charged under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, the sedition law, and the Computer Crime Act, for their involvement in a Facebook Page entitled ‘We Love Gen Prayut’, a satirical Facebook fan page mocking Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister. 

Legal officers of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the formal name of the Thai junta, brought the accusations against them.

Out of the eight, only Kannasit Tangboonthina confessed while seven others denied the accusations.

In addition, the authorities also accused Harit and Natthika under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lѐse majesté law, for sending messages deemed defamatory to the Thai Monarchy in their private chat.

The police elaborated that the nine worked as a network and were paid by Chaituch around 16,000-23,000 baht per month for posting images and messages on the satirical Facebook page, linking the alleged network with an unidentified individual.

At the briefing, Pol Maj Gen Chayapol Chatchaidej added that Natthika was hired by Jatuporn Prompan, chair of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), the main red shirt faction, and Sombat Boonngamanong, a well-known anti-junta activist.  

The police announced that they are currently gathering additional evidence in order to seek arrest warrants for Jatuporn and Sombat.

During the briefing, lawyers from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) led by Yaowalak Anupan, the TLHR director, and family members of some of the accused tried to meet the eight. However, the police barred them from doing so.

TLHR condemned the military for mistreating the suspects and the police for the decision by to choose lawyers for them without their consent, saying that under the law they have the right to choose their own attorneys.

Asked by the media as to why they chose to arrest the suspects at this time because the satirical Facebook page and many other similar Facebook pages have been open for a long time, Pol Gen Srivara said that the NCPO just filed the case against them.

Eight of the nine suspects were abducted on Wednesday morning by the military.

Initially, 10 people were abducted, but Nithi Kooltasnasilp, a friend of Harit, was released after being taken from the north eastern province of Khon Kaen to the 11th Military Circle for interrogation while Vararat Mengpramool, a man affiliated with the UDD, who was also reportedly abducted by the military, did not appear on the list of the accused.

In addition to the 10 individuals abducted by the military on Wednesday morning, the military on Wednesday night arrested Burin Intin, one of the 16 activists who participated in a gathering to show solidarity with those who were abducted by the junta.

Soldiers took him from Phaya Thai Police Station in Bangkok while 15 other activists were released after a brief detention. His current fate is unknown.

The eight suspects during the press briefing at the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) on 28 April 2016

Soldiers bar TLHR lawyers, preventing them from meeting the suspects