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Lawyers find it difficult to fight under junta rule

The legal defence available for those being tried in military courts has a very small chance of ensuring justice, said Anon Nampa, lawyer of detained red-shirt leader Sombat Boonngam-anong.

A military court yesterday approved Sombat's detention for another 12 days - from today to July 5 - and refused to grant him bail, alleging that the defendant faced many charges.

Anon said justice was being compromised because the military court does not allow an appeal and the lawyers don't know how far they can go to defend their clients. He said many lawyers were afraid of attacking the junta in defence of their clients for fear of being detained and prosecuted themselves.

"We have to fight directly against the military junta" in the court, he said, referring to himself and another volunteer human-rights lawyer.

"If we go too far in our arguments, will we be summoned too?"

May face trouble too

The lawyer also said that when someone perceived as an enemy of the junta is taken to military court, there is automatically a conflict of interest, as one of the parties - the military in this case - acts as the judge.

Sombat, who led an on- and offline campaign against the military coup, could face up to 24 years in prison under the Computer Crimes Act and the lese majeste law as well as for violating the junta's orders, Anon said.

He said the only way for the junta to ensure justice would be to lift martial law immediately and stop trying civilians in military court.

He said people upcountry were being arbitrarily detained without an arrest warrant or summons, adding that this would continue for as long as the martial law is in place.

As for Sombat, Anon insisted that his client's call for an end to anti-coup protests was genuine and not made under duress. He added that Sombat had accepted that the coup was a fait accompli and he did not want to see other people being arrested.

On Sunday, at least eight university students were detained briefly for distributing sandwiches at a shopping mall in Bangkok, and one was arrested for reading George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four". Another young person was nabbed for flashing the three-finger "Hunger Games" salute at Siam Paragon department store.

Anon said Sombat "believes his role ended when he was arrested. Now he wants to see a peaceful transition. Though he won't abandon his long-term struggle, he wants to stop for now as the situation is unsettling."

Anon is also urging the junta to provide all political prisoners, including those detained under the lese majeste law, separate cells from general criminals.

"They are just fighting for their ideology. They are not criminals," he argued.


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