Military Court releases 7 embattled democracy activists

The Military Court has released the seven embattled democracy activists after detaining them for nearly two weeks.

The Military Court of Bangkok at around 3:30 pm on Tuesday, 5 July 2016, refused the police permission to detain the seven activists, most of whom are affiliated with the New Democracy Movement (NDM): Rangsiman Rome, Korakoch Saengyenpan, Thirayut Napnaram, Somsakol Thongsuksai, Yuttana Dasri, Nantapong Panmat and Anan Loket.

According to officers from the Department of Corrections, the seven will be released on Wednesday morning.

The seven are accused of violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head’s Order 3/2015, the junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons and the controversial Referendum Act which allows 10 years’ imprisonment for persons who distribute content about the draft constitution which deviates from the facts or contains rude and violent language.

As the seven were brought to the Military Court on Tuesday morning with their feet shackled, many people, including activists from the New Democracy Movement (NDM) and Resistant Citizens, prominent anti-junta political groups, volunteers from Amnesty International (AI) and academics, gathered in front of the Military Court to show solidarity with the embattled activists.

Most of the seven detainees have lost weight during detention, especially Rangsiman Rome, the NDM leader, who reportedly lost at least 10 kg during two weeks in custody and had to be assisted by a prison officer to walk into the courthouse.

Rangsiman and the others, however, remain adamant that they did not do anything wrong and were only exercising their rights. They stated that they would refuse to request bail from the Military Court even if the Court did not release them. “I maintain that what I did was not a crime,” said Rangsiman. “We have been shackled and imprisoned although we did nothing wrong.”

Nantapong Panmat, another detained activist, said in the courtroom “Detention, despite the fact that we did nothing wrong, made us suffer, but I want to say to the court that we will not submit bail requests because we did not do any wrong and we don’t deserve to be tried by a Military Court.”

According to iLaw, a human rights advocacy group, officers and delegates from the Embassies of the US, UK, Canada and other EU nations, such as Germany, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland and were present at the court to observe the ruling.

Jatuporn Prompan, leader of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), the main red shirt faction affiliated with Thaksin Shinawatra, and other UDD key leaders also travelled to the Military Court in the afternoon to give encouragement to the activists.

Since early morning more than a dozen police officers and soldiers were deployed at the entrance to the Military Court to maintain security.

The seven were arrested by the police together with six other activists on 23 June 2016 for distributing campaign flyers for the upcoming draft constitution referendum. Six were released on bail after they submitted bail requests to the police, unlike the seven who refused ask for bail.

The seven embattled democracy activists in front of the Military Court of Bangkok on 5 July 2016

Prominent activists, academics and many others gather in front of the Military Court to show solidarity with the embattled activists on 5 July 2016