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Pro-election activists walk free ahead of new protest


KEY ACTIVISTS in last month’s pro-election assembly yesterday walked free after the court rejected detention requests filed by police who had summoned them ahead of another demonstration planned for this Saturday.

Rangsiman Rome, one of the accused activists and a key figure of Democracy Restoration Group (DRG), said that it was because police officers at Chana Songkhram Police Station filed the requests out of office hours without the presence of any of the accused.
“The traffic jam was terrible today so we did not reach the court in time,” Rangsiman told The Nation. “We travelled to the court separately from the officers. We were not, and could not be, forced to do so, but we had planned to be there to object to the police requests.”
The activists, who are demanding that an election be held, reported themselves to the police over charges issued after they participated in an assembly on March 24, when they marched to the Army headquarters in Bangkok to call for the military to stop supporting the ruling junta.
Three of the activists who were due to report yesterday – Chonthicha Jangrew, Apisit Sapnapapan and Korakoch Saengyenphan – had also been issued arrest warrants, as they had not shown up at the appointed time.
They were charged with allegedly breaking the junta’s ban against political gatherings of five or more people, the public assembly law and the land traffic law.
A total of 47 activists face charges but 41 of them reported to the police on April 18. The police requested back then that all 41 be detained, but the court also denied those requests.
The March gathering was part of a series of assemblies the DRG and its allies have planned since January, when junta-appointed legislators agreed to postpone the implementation of the MP election law, causing the election expected to be held in November to be delayed until next year.
The group has insisted that an election be held this year and that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) not remain in power after the election.
The group did not hold an assembly in April but it plans to launch a days-long assembly on Saturday to put pressure on the undemocratic regime.
Meanwhile, Deputy Premier and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who chaired a Defence Council meeting yesterday, has assigned Army commander-in-chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart to prepare a procedural handbook, Defence Ministry spokesman Lt-General Kongcheep Tantrawanit said.
“The handbook is meant to prevent clashes between officials and demonstrators. People involved must understand the legal framework. Human rights must not be violated. This is something the prime minister is concerned about,” Kongcheep said.
“The goal is to avoid problems that happened in the past – injuries, human rights violations, or lack of understanding on laws.”
The Army is working with the Justice Ministry to prepare the handbook, which is expected to be completed “as soon as possible”, the spokesman said.
He said that the guidelines would comply with international practices in dealing with protesters, including the principle that officials are required to use light measures first and gradually increase the degree of severity if those initial measures do not work.
For example, he added, officials dealing with demonstrators would start with issuing a warning and then use water cannons before adopting tougher actions.

 

Published : April 30, 2018

By : WASAMON AUDJARINT THE NATION