Thammasat lecturers urge junta to cease prosecution of We Walk organisers

A group of academics has thrown their support behind the organisers of the civil rights march who are accused of violating a junta order. Meanwhile, for the first time 20 marchers have been able to walk together after a court guaranteed their right to assembly.
 
On 29 January 2018, Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, a legal scholar at Thammasat University (TU), posted on his Facebook account that 26 TU deputy rectors, deans and assistant deans have submitted a statement to the National Council for Peace and Order. The petition calls for an end to the prosecution of eight organisers of We Walk, a Walk for Friendship, the march for civil rights from Bangkok to Khon Kaen.
 
The lecturers argue that the We Walk march constitutes a basic right of the people to assembly, which is guaranteed by the NCPO-engineered 2017 Constitution. And since the junta promises that the country will return to democracy soon, the prosecution of the eight should immediately end. 
 
“Thailand is following the roadmap to return to normal [political] conditions. The NCPO should therefore be more open-minded and allow the people to enjoy more rights and freedoms according to the law and under the constitution, especially on the issues of freedom of expression and public participation,” read the statement.
 
Meanwhile, the number of We Walk participants today increased from four in a group to about 20 after the Administrative Court ordered the authorities not to obstruct the march. Previously, marchers had to walk in groups of four people to avoid violating the junta’s ban on public gatherings of five people or more. However, around seven police officers still closely monitor the march.  
 
The We Walk march kicked off at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on 20 January with four main issues: the right to universal health care, the rights of farmers, community and environmental rights, and the Constitution. 
 
Since the beginning, the rally has faced repeated obstruction by the police and military. On the first day, the authorities blocked the activists from exiting Thammasat University, claiming the march violated the junta’s ban on public gatherings of five people or more. The protesters then divided into groups of four people and marched from the university group by group.
 
A day later, Ayutthaya police officers searched their supply trucks and briefly detained four protesters for interrogation. The protesters had to start the march earlier than planned after the authorities pressured an Ayutthaya temple which sheltered them. The organisers of the civil rights march are also facing prosecution for violating the junta’s ban on public assembly.
 
 
 
The We Walk march in Nakhon Ratchasima
 

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