The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) earlier this month lodged a complaint with Klong Luang Police Station in Pathum Thani province accusing the activists of violating the law.
The accusations were related to the network’s “We Walk” march, which began at Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus on January 20. The march was launched to raise public awareness about welfare programmes, universal healthcare, food security, community rights and environment protection, and political rights and democracy.
The accused are Lertsak Khamkongsak, Anusorn Unno, Nimit Tien-udom, Somchai Krajangsaeng, Saengsiri Trimankha, Nuchanart Tantong, Ubon Yuwa and Jamnong Nuphan. All of them except Anusorn work for non-governmental organisations. Anusorn is the dean of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology.
Their lawyer, Surachai Trong-ngarm, said yesterday police did not detain any of them because they had answered the summons.
“They will submit written testimony to police on February 20,” Surachai added.
He said the eight would then have to report to police again on February 26 to hear whether they had decided to forward their case to public prosecutors.
“We believe we have freedom of expression as enshrined by the Constitution,” Nimit said at Klong Luang Police Station yesterday amid a crowd of supporters. “We won’t accept restrictions.”
Representatives from several rights organisations and embassies also appeared to observe the case, including Alexander Nowak, a diplomat from the German Embassy in Bangkok.
“I can’t see what is illegal about people walking. It is freedom of movement, freedom of expression. So I want to find out from the police about this summons,” he said.
Kasetsart University lecturer Decharut Sukkumnoed, also a member of the Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights, said authorities should immediately drop the complaint against the We Walk leaders.
“The 2017 Constitution has already taken effect. No order should supersede the charter,” he said.
Decharut added that the government should listen to the voices of people adversely affected by government policies and officials.
“It’s also time for the NCPO chief [Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha] to review whether he has really delivered happiness to people,” he said. Despite the legal threat from the NCPO, the We Walk march continued normally yesterday.
The organisers plan for the march to cover 450 kilometres and end in Khon Kaen province in the middle of February.
Meanwhile, James Gomez, Amnesty International’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said Thailand’s military rulers were not only continuing to tie up hundreds of real or perceived critics with long-running criminal proceedings, but had escalated a crackdown on peaceful dissent in recent months.
“Authorities must honour their promise to lift the absurd and unjustifiable restrictions they have now been imposing for almost four years, ostensibly in the name of national security,” said Gomez in a statement released yesterday.
Published : January 31, 2018
By : Anan Wijitpracha, Pongsatat Rujiputtanyapat The Nation