THAI LAWYERS for Human Rights (TLHR) has called for an end to prosecutions against people involved in peaceful assemblies, following a series of recent summonses against the activists. Meanwhile, Deputy Police Commissioner Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, has threatened to issue arrest warrants against “MBK 39” activists – who on January 27 gathered to call for prolonged election to eventually t
“We work independently without orders from the government. We pursue prosecutions equally to all sides,” Srivara said.
In a statement, the TLHR said protesters had recently been brought to face prosecution whether they had spoken for or against the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). Examples included the MBK 39 and the peaceful march by the People Go network that called for an end to the NCPO’s sweeping powers. Even participants of protests supporting Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, who has been under pressure for his unusual possession of a luxury watch collection, were not exempt, the TLHR said.
The protesters all faced charges of allegedly breaking NCPO order 3/2015 that prohibits all political gatherings of five or more people. The accused in the two latter cases are also accused of breaking the public assembly act that prohibits public gatherings within a 150-metre radius of royal palaces.
Yesterday, five of Prawit’s supporters also turned themselves in to Phraratchawang police station after being charged. They could face up to six months in prison and/or a maximum fine of Bt10,000. The five men decided to turn themselves in to prove their innocence and had no intention of instigating or triggering a situation in any political way, said Pol Colonel Thanakrit Chaijaruwut, superintendent at Phraratchawang police station Thanakrit added that police had studied the CCTV camera footage and photographs to identify the other roughly 30 participants and summonses would be issued accordingly.
“These prosecutions were made because law enforcers considered that their gatherings were for political purposes,” the TLHR said in a statement “This turns public assembly, which is a form of constitutionally and internationally endorsed freedom, into a kind of freedom that solely depends on law enforcers’ interpretation [of the law].” it said. “We urge Thai authorities to respect people who practice their civil and political rights, and agree that such rights are essential and practicable in a democratic regime,” it added.
Meanwhile, about 10 of 39 accused activists attempted to hold a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) but failed after being pressured by police. Nuttaa Mahattana, one of accused activists, said the police pressured the building owner as they could not directly force the FCCT to cancel the press conference.
“Reporters were made to stay in parking lots. We had to have brief interviews there before going to the FCCT simply to have coffee,” Nuttaa said. Nuttaa, who is also accused of sedition, said that the activists will report themselves at Prathumwan police station tomorrow. They would also march to court if police filed further charges. She hoped that there was insufficient reason to detain them.
“They [police] threatened to object to bail requests if we are detained,” she said. “We want freedom during the legal process. Our self-reports prove that we have not fled from charges,” she said. “We also insist that our peaceful assembly is not against the law.”