Military Release the Anti-Coup leader After Condemnation from Civic Groups


Mr. Sombat Boon-ngamanong, the key member of the Pola Muang Wiwat Group (Also known as Thai Say No Group) and Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship was released around 7.30 pm on 7 July 2007 after being held for about one day at the Meng Rai Maharaj Military Camp in Chiang Rai.


Mr. Sombat, the founder and the director of the Mirror Group Foundation, an organisation working to end human trafficking, has been critical of the military coup since 19 September 2006. He was the former coordinator with the 19 September Network against the Coup before he co-found the Thai Say No Group. This news compilation wishes to serve as the chronological events and updates on the arrest of Mr. Sombat on the night of the 6 July to the release on the 7 July. Mr. Sombat is the first ant-coup key figure that had been arrested by the military government.


Anti-Coup and Rights Group call for Immediate Release


After the news of Sombat's arrest were proliferated, anti-coup and rights groups responded to the arrest by issuing press statements and releases condemning the military government on the arrest. 19 September Network against the Coup, Thai Say No Group, Northern Students Group for Democracy, Democracy Group for Welfare State, Northern NGO Coalition for Peoples Democracy, and Campaign for Popular Media Reform (CPMR) issued separate statements calling for the immediate release of Mr. Sombat.


The statements shared similar messages that the arrest was a clear violation of human rights and stress that the military government needs to respect the freedom of expressions and assemblies which are the basic freedoms and rights. The statements also call for the immediate lift of the Martial law and the rights to criticize the government and the rights reject the constitution is the basic right of the people.


Military Giving Unclear Messages


Right after the arrest, General Jiradech Kotcharat, 3rd Army Commander, stated to the reporters that he was aware of the arrest, but it was just an action to see who hired Sombat to organise the demonstration, and stress that Sombat was not being detained but was just called for questioning.


According to Mr. Panuwat Harnsomboon, the member of the Thai Say No Group was contacted by Major Kamthorn Suyara on the night of 6 July that Mr. Sombat would be release around 2.00-3.00 pm of 7 July and was again postponed to six pm, despite that he was release around 7.30 pm - later than what this officer said.


Also on the night of 6 July, Mr. Paniwat and the members of Mr. Sombat were given assurance by the officer that they could visit Mr. Sombat, however they were denied to meet him that night.


Dr. Weng Tojirakarn, one of the key members of the DAAD asserted that the words of the military were changing sporadically. He stressed that Sombat was exercising rights under democratic system, and questioning "if the barrel of the guns are turned to the people, how can we have a democratic and fair election?"


Confusion at the Demonstration in front of the Army Headquarter








About 50 demonstrators representing DAAD, Thai Say No Group, 19 September Network against the Coup gathered in front of the Army Headquarter at around 6.00 pm on 7 July 2007 calling for the release of Mr. Sombat.


At around 6.30 pm, there was a little confusion after Mr. Suchart Nakbangsai, a member of the Saturday Anti-Dictator Group and a key member of the DAAD drove his car into the army headquarter area and called for the immediate release of Sombat. Mr. Suchart was later arrested and briefly detained in the army headquarter compound. He was later sent for initial investigation at Nang Leung Police Precinct.


Mr. Suchart was charged with trespassing into the official compound by the police, and Mr. Suchart in return filed a complaint back on the charge of illegal detention and overuses of forces.


Dr. Weng later stated that the intention of Mr. Suchart was not to trespass the army compound, but Mr. Suchart wanted to accompany Dr. Weng to negotiate with the military officers inside. Dr. Weng also condemned the military for the uses of excessive force.


Sombat being asked - "Do you know the penalty for Martial Law is Death?"


After the release, Mr. Sombat gave an interview that the military informed him that they were using the power under the Martial Law and he was charged for committing threats to national security under the Article 116 of the Criminal Code.


He stressed that the investigation was done in a very intense situation. The investigators asked if he was being hired to organise demonstrations and rallies. The military investigators also informed him that under the areas where Martial Law is still imposed, the highest penalty for ruining the country is death.


Mr. Sombat later said that the Martial Law imposed is being politicized since the country is not in volatile condition as in war time. He also stressed that he will continue his campaign to promote the rights and liberties of the people.


Giving power to the Military Threaten Peoples Liberties - Chiang Mai Academia Stressed


Assistant Professor Somchai Preechasilpakul, the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Chiang Mai University and Midnight University professor highlighted that Thai society has given extreme authority to the military. The rights and liberties will be hampered by the martial law. Martial laws were used in a nonsense manner in many occasions, such as the recent case when it was used to prohibit the rights to assembly of the Pak Moon villagers.


He stressed that if military is allowed to enter politics, we will see the rise of authoritarianism. Professor Somchai also called the activists who has joined the military coup needs to protect those military. "Those activists who where once the minority and now do not respect those that think differently are not any distinct to the dictators", said Professor Somchai.


Activists Emphasise the Rights to Oppose Military Dictators


Mr. Suriyun Thongnu-iead with Friends of the Peoples (FOP) and the secretary of the Northern Peasants Federation (NPF) said that Mr. Sombat and everyone should be protected for upholding democratic principles. The military cannot claim that the reasons that they staged the coup were to improve the country situation, whereas in reality there is no improvement.


He also stressed that Martial law should not be used to prohibit the rights to political participation. He also highlighted that the criticisms on the administration of this government is the basic freedom, and if the Council on National Security (CNS) cannot nourish and accept criticisms, then CNS is not any better than the previous regime of Thaksin Shinnawatra.


Mr. Somsak Yothinchai, a member of the Northern Peasant Coalition, stressed that Martial Law is now being use excessively. The local villagers are being targeted for voicing out their dissatisfactories. "In the future, it will be most worrisome if the Martial law will be used as political tools against one another", said Mr. Somsak.


Translated and compiled by Pokpong Lawansiri



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