Police officers keep up surveillance of activists despite junta’s dissolution

Even though the NCPO was formally dissolved once the new cabinet took the oath of office before King Vajiralongkorn on Tuesday (16 July), several activists have reported being visited at home by police officers.

Sa-nguan Khumrungroj's Facebook post with photos of the officers who visited him

Most of the activists visited by the police were part of the People Calling for Election group, who staged several demonstrations during the first half of this year after the general election was postponed from the previously scheduled date in February, or were among the guests at the cremation ceremony of Thong Jamsri, the last Secretary-General of the Communist Party of Thailand, on 14 July.

The activists were visited by both plainclothes and uniformed officers, who came in groups of two to ten people. The reported reasons for the visits range from safety concerns to confirming whether the visited person’s current address still matches police records. Some were also questioned about their attendance at Thong Jamsri’s funeral.

Senior reporter Sa-nguan Khumrongroj told UDD News that yesterday (15 July), plainclothes officers visited the home of his elderly parents, causing concerns for his mother, who does not know a lot about politics. An officer also visited his home later, claiming to be from Nakhon Pathom, but when he asked to see the officer’s police ID, it showed that he is from Metropolitan Police Division 8.

“The officer claimed that his superior had ordered him to come, so I asked him if his superior ordered him to die, would he go? I asked him if he has ever read my Facebook page. He said he has never read it. I wonder if these people read books at all. I feel very angry. He came to my house, and then he photographed my neighbours, so I shouted for the people to come and catch the policeman. ‘Catch this policeman quickly’. Then, he rushed away. He said, goodbye Nguan, I have to run now, because I have to visit many other people in Thonburi,” Sa-nguan said.

Sa-nguan speculated that the police visited him and other activists because they went to Thong Jamsri’s cremation ceremony, which was attended by many activists, including Sirawith “Ja New” Serithiwat, who read a eulogy for Thong and a poem.

Baramee Chairat, an advisor to the Assembly of the Poor, was also visited by an officer from Metropolitan Police Division 8. Baramee also attended Thong’s funeral.

Nutta Mahattana, one of the leaders of the People Calling for Election group, said that almost every member of the group has been visited by the police. She proposed that the police chief should invite all the activists at once to save the country’s resources, and so that the police will have time to find and detain the people who are attacking activists.

Previously, on 8 July, several academics and activists were visited by police officers, who claimed that the police wanted to check whether their current address still matches police records. However, one of those visited asked the security guards in front of the housing development why they had let the police in. The guards said that the men did not say they were from the police, but said that they were visiting relatives.

Among those visited by the police on 8 July were Anusorn Unno, Dean of the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology at Thammasat University and anti-coup activist Prajin Thanangkorn.

Anusorn said that 5 plainclothes officers visited his home, claiming that they had been ordered to check whether Anusorn still lives at the address and whether the information matches police records, before leaving abruptly after gaining information.

Meanwhile, Prajin said that 5 plainclothes officers came to his house on 8 July, but he was not home at the time. His relative was at home and photographed the officers, but was threatened by the officers for taking the picture. Prajin said that his relative was not sure whether the officers were joking, but called him in alarm. The officers asked Prajin what he does for a living and where he lives. Prajin informed them that he is 65 years old and is not working, and that he lives at the address the police visited. He gave the officers his phone number and told them to call him before visiting next time so he can wait for them.

As the new cabinet took the oath of office before King Vajiralongkorn on Tuesday evening (15 July), the NCPO ceased to exist according to a transitory provision in Section 265 of the Constitution. This means that it is no longer possible to issue new orders under Section 44. However, according to Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, the power to detain people without warrants will continue to rest with the counter-insurgency agency operating under the Prime Minister’s Office.

Wissanu claimed that this power won’t be invoked, but he said that the practice of “attitude adjustment” will continue.