Submitted on Tue, 2018-06-12 16:12
A public prosecutor has dismissed charges against 14 villagers in Phayao who were prosecuted for violating the NCPO’s ban on public protests. Before the case was dropped, the villagers faced repeated intimidation by the local authorities.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported on 8 June that in late May a public prosecutor in Phayao Province decided not to indict 14 supporters of the civil rights march We Walk. The police have asked them to sign a document to this effect at Phu Sang Police Station. The last protester signed on 4 June, marking the official end of the prosecution.
The prosecution was initiated on 5 February when a group of farmers in Doi Thewada Village and four student activists staged a small rally to express support to We Walk, a march for civil rights from Bangkok to Khon Kaen. The villagers walked for 500 meters and read a statement calling for welfare policies such as a progressive income tax and community rights.
The rally at Doi Thewada Village (Photo from TLHR)
In the night, the military and the police summoned 11 participants at the rally to Phu Sang Police Station and interrogated them until morning. There was no defence lawyer present throughout the interrogation. The youngest participant is only 16 years old and has a mental disability. The authorities added that they would issue a summons for three other participants who did not show up at the police station.
The military accused the 14 individuals of violating the Head of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order 3/2015, the junta’s ban on public gatherings of five people or more. However, according to TLHR, the police decided to press charges against only 10 of them. They had to pay 5,000 baht each as bail surety.
Soldiers interrogate the protesters (Photo from TLHR)
The 10 include seven members of the Northern Peasants Federation, Saeng Sopbong, Wanlop Phandi, Prayun Yamongkhon, Nom Karanoi, Nan Chatunam, Choen Daengmani and Bunyuen Saengkaeo; and three student activists from Chiang Rai, Somchai Kuwiwatthanasakun, Kanthima Mongkhondi and Worasathit Buadaeng.
The protesters tried to appeal to the authorities to withdraw the prosecution, but local security officers repeatedly obstructed them. In late February, soldiers and police officers barred them from submitting a petition to the Phayao Government Office.
In early March, when the villagers tried to submit another petition, a military officer obstructed them and raised his middle finger, furiously saying that the network had distorted the truth as the authorities were not going to prosecute the 14 for violating the junta’s ban.
Soldiers and police officers ask the villagers not to submit their petition (Photo from Northern Peasants Federation)