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Military charges are harsh and unfair: Sombat

ANTI-COUP activist Sombat Boonngam-anong says it is unfair for him to be put on trial in a military court to face two charges including instigating unrest, as he is a civilian.

Sombat, who was arrested and detained for 25 days, faces four charges, two of them in the military court. These are instigating unrest and violating the Computer Crimes Act by instigating unrest via the Internet. These two charges alone could see him jailed for a decade, he said.

Sombat also faces two other charges, one for alleged lese majeste, but in a normal court.

"It's strange to put a civilian in the military court. Such a measure should only be used in an emergency situation in order to contain an unstable situation," he said.

Sombat, who has since renounced any future anti-coup activity, said he was shocked by the number of charges against him and the fact he will have to face court martial.

"I didn't think it would be this harsh. It's very cruel," said Sombat, who is currently unemployed after losing two part-time television jobs. He has also lost a position as a board member of an NGO due to the criminal charges against him.

Now on bail, Sombat is also broke.

"I borrow money from friends and relatives and I can still get by. I don't need much money," he said.

Sombat, who is in his mid-40s and married with a young daughter, was alluding to the fact that the junta has frozen all his bank accounts.

His life, he said, has altered dramatically since his arrest and he now faces an uncertain future.

"I have no money. I can't commit to anything and I lead a day to day existence," he said.

Sombat has now decided to speak out about the issue after being afraid to go public for some time.

"I think it's a personal right. I am losing my rights and should be able to somewhat speak about it. This is the right to be human and such a right should remain."

Niran Pitakwatchara, of the National Human Rights Commission, said his agency's stance is that no civilian should be brought to a military court unless the case involves war. He said Sombat's case was political and he should be given a chance.

"But it's up to the National Council for Peace and Order," he said, in reference to the military junta.


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