Thai authorities should immediately drop criminal charges against 11 student activists who peacefully expressed opposition to military rule, Human Rights Watch said today.
On May 22, 2015, Thai authorities arrested more than 40 activists in Bangkok and other provinces who were holding peaceful rallies to mark the first anniversary of the coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta. This was the largest crackdown on dissidents since the NCPO seized power in May 2014.
“The prosecution of students for peaceful protests shows that the military junta has no intention of easing its oppressive rule,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Gagging public protests makes a mockery of the junta’s self-proclaimed commitment to return to democracy.”
Four students in Bangkok (Rangsiman Rome, Ratthapol Supasopon, Songtham Kaewpanpruk, and Chonthicha Jaengraew) and seven students in the northeastern Khon Kaen province (Jaturapak Boonpatararaksa, Apiwat Suntararak, Payu Bunsophon, Panupong Srithananuwat, Suwitcha Thipangkorn, Supachai Pukrongploy, and Wasan Sethsitthi) were charged with violating the junta’s ban on political activity and holding a public gathering of more than five people.
They were ordered to report to the police on June 8 to acknowledge the charges. All of the students face trial in military court and could be imprisoned for one year and fined up to 20,000 baht (US$625).
On May 22, 2015, Human Rights Watch, together with many journalists, lawyers, and representatives of Thai human rights groups, witnessed soldiers in civilian clothes and police assaulting student activists during the dispersal of a peaceful rally at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center.
According to Human Rights Watch, the security forces beat, kicked, and slapped the demonstrators without provocation. Some members of the security forces lifted the students up and threw them on the ground.
Others grabbed the students by their hair and dragged them away. Kaewpanpruk, one of the students facing charges, was sent to the hospital for emergency treatment after he was found lying unconscious on the ground, said Human Rights Watch.
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