Court confirms military court jurisdiction over anti-coup activists

A District Court has confirmed that the Military Court has jurisdiction over trials of anti-junta activists charged with violating the junta’s political gathering ban, saying the junta has successfully gained control of the country since the coup d’état.

The Military Court of Bangkok on Tuesday, 7 June 2016, held a deposition hearing for Natchacha Kongudom, an anti-junta youth activist indicted for violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head’s Order No. 3/2015.  The order prohibits any political gathering of five or more persons.

In this case, Natchacha was indicted together with Tatchapong Kaedum, a fellow activist, for participating in a gathering to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état in downtown Bangkok on 22 May, according to iLaw, a human rights advocacy group.

At the hearing, the Military Court read the ruling of Pathumwan District Court of Bangkok, which confirms the jurisdiction of the Military Court in the case, citing NCPO Announcement NO. 37/2014 which states that cases related to national security, the Thai monarchy and violations of NCPO orders shall be tried in Military Courts.   

The ruling also states that although the announcements and orders of the NCPO were not endorsed by the King or parliament, the coup-makers have successfully gained control over the country since the 2014 coup. Therefore, their orders and announcements are lawful.

Natchacha’s defence lawyer requested the Military Court to postpone the trial because a request had been submitted to the Constitutional Court to consider jurisdiction over the case.

The Military Court asked to have a copy of the document submitted to the Constitutional Court and said that the court will rule on the request in 30 days.

Natchacha and Tatchapong were among at least 37 youth activists who were arrested for participating in an event to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état on 22 May 2015.

The activists, most of whom are students, were detained at the police station for one night for participating in the event. However, only 8-9 activists have been charged for violating the junta’s gathering ban, including Natchacha and Tatchapong.

Natchacha Kongudom detained by the authorities on 27 April 2016 for standing still to show solidarity with 10 persons abducted by the military (file photo)