William Nicholas Gomes
William Nicholas Gomes

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha

Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)

Government House

Pitsanulok Road,

Dusit, Bangkok 10300, Thailand

Gen. Somyot Pumpanmuang

Royal Thai Police Commissioner-General

Royal Thai Police

Floor 7, Building 1, Rama 1 Road,

Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

Chief of Judge Advocate General

The Judge Advocate General?s Office

Government Building

Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters,

Building 4, Chaeng Wattana Road,

Lak Si, Bangkok 10210, Thailand

+66 2 575 6327

Subject: Drop all charges against 16 human rights defenders

Dear General Chan-ocha, General Pumpanmuang and Chief of Judge Advocate General,

We, the undersigned human rights organisations, write to you regarding the charges

against 16 student and allied activists (7 from the Dao Din student group based at Khon

Kaen University, and 9 from Bangkok), 14 of whom were detained from 26th June to 8th

July 2015 in Bangkok. These 16 students have been charged for their role in peaceful

public assemblies on 22nd May 2015 commemorating the first-year anniversary of the

May 2014 military coup.

 

The 14 who were detained for 12 days are facing additional sedition charges, which were

used on 26th June 2015 to arrest them. These 14 students from the Neo-Democracy

Movement were taken to Bangkok Military Court around midnight on 26th June 2015,

when the Military Court granted the Royal Thai Police?s request for pre-trial detention ro

a 12 day period. The 14 students are being held in the Bangkok Remand Prison and the

Central Women?s Correctional Institution. The same Bangkok Military Court rejected the

Royal Thai Police?s request to extend the pre-trial detention on 7th July 2015. The 14 were

released 24 hours after the decision on 8th July 2015, but they are still facing all the

charges filed against them.

 

The 14 who were detained for 12 days include 7 members of a Khon Kaen-based student

group: Mr. Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Mr. Apiwat Suntararak, Mr. Payu Boonsopon, Mr.

Panupong Srithananuwat, Mr. Suvicha Tipangkorn, Mr. Supachai Pukrongploy and Mr.

Wassant Saetsit. All were initially arrested on 22nd May 2015 when they staged a peaceful

protest in Khon Kaen against the effects of military rule on community rights, human

rights and the poor in northeast Thailand. They were granted bail after having been

charged by Khon Kaen Military Court for violating Order No. 3/2558 (3/2015) issued by

the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

 

Similarly, the 7 Bangkok-based university students and allies ? Mr. Rattapol Supasupon,

Mr. Rangsiman Rome, Mr. Songtham Kaewpanpruk, Ms. Chonthicha Jaengraew, Mr. Apisit

Sapnapaphan, Mr. Pakorn Areekul, and Mr. Pornchai Yuanyee ? staged a peaceful protest

in central Bangkok on 22nd May 2015, have been charged with violating NCPO Order

3/2558. The sedition charges for all 14 students, under Section 116 of the Thai Penal

Code, follow the students? peaceful demonstrations against your military government in

Bangkok on 24th June and 25th June 2015.

 

We condemn the use and existence of Order 3/2558, because this order invokes all NCPO

Orders issued between 22nd May 2014 and 1st April 2015, which have effectively

suspended all civil and political rights and fundamental freedoms on unjustifiable

grounds of ?national security.? Article 116 of the Thai Penal Code is a severe and

unacceptable restriction on freedom of speech which is used to criminalise political

activists.

 

Order 3/2558, issued by virtue of Article 44 of the Interim Constitution 2557 B.E., gives

sweeping powers and provides blanket immunity to your military government. It allows

the militarization of all law-enforcement and state operations. For example, this Order

enables the continued use of military courts and military personnel to carry out measures

under the Criminal Procedure Code. Furthermore, officials exercising duties under this

Order enjoy full immunity from both disciplinary and criminal justice procedures.

The use of military courts to try civilians is a blatant violation of international fair trial

rights, as guaranteed by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political

Rights(ICCPR), which Thailand ratified in 1996, and is legally bound to implement. Article

14, Paragraph 1, enshrines the principle of trials being conducted by a ?competent,

independent and impartial tribunal.? This principle is violated by the use of military

courts to try civilians; especially when the military controls all branches of state power,

including the executive, legislative, and now, judicial branches. Article 14, Paragraph 5,

explicitly guarantees the right to judicial review of any conviction and sentence by a

higher court, which is a right denied to anyone tried in a military court in Thailand.

Furthermore, we decry the harassment and intimidation of the students and allies?

groups. The ICCPR imposes legally-binding obligations on State Parties to respect a

number of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression

(Article 19) and the right to peaceful assembly (Article 21).

 

We also call your attention to Article 17 of the ICCPR which guarantees the right to

protection from ?arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or

correspondence, [and] to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.? State

authorities stand in direct violation of this right as they have carried out a constant

campaign of intimidation and harassment of the students? affinity groups. Uniformed

officials (both police and military) have been photographing the students? parents houses;

authorities have been questioning parents on the upbringing of their children; Khon Kaen

University has been pressured to call all the students? parents in for a meeting where

authorities lectured the parents on 11th June 2015; and soldiers, police and other

authorities have been threatening repercussions if community-based Human Rights

Defenders associate with the Dao Din student group again.

 

Finally, your Orders as head of the NCPO violate the rights and freedoms guaranteed by

international human rights law, which continues to apply to Thailand under the Interim

Constitution. Most directly, Article 25 of the ICCPR enshrines the right to participate in

public affairs for people. The suspension of elections, community rights, community

participation in environmental and natural resource management policy are all violations

of Article 25. The absolute power you hold, as per Article 44 of the Interim Constitution,

effectively guts this right.

 

The students and allies? commemorative activities on the 22nd May 2015 and their pro-
democracy demonstrations on 24th June and 25th June 2015, expressed their opposition

to these systematic and institutional violations of basic human rights and fundamental

freedoms.

 

It must be underlined that Article 19 of the ICCPR also guarantees the right to hold any

opinion and express it by any media. Thus, students have throughout all their activities

been peacefully exercising their own human rights and fundamental freedoms to decry

your military government?s violations of the Thai people?s human rights. The legal

persecution of these students and allies, and the authorities? harassment of the students?

affinity groups are direct breaches of international human rights law. If these charges are

pressed on against students and allies and the military court declares them guilty, they

would be political prisoners of your repressive regime.

 

These civic-minded students and allies, and all community-based Human Rights

Defenders they work with, deserve recognition, not criminalisation. Socially-conscious

individuals, especially youth, who engage in peaceful actions to promote human rights are

essential to an open and democratic society and contribute to social justice.

Therefore, we urge you to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges and end all legal proceedings

against the 16 students and allies;

2. Immediately stop the harassment of the students and allies? lawyers by

authorities;

3. Stop all harassment and intimidation of the students and allies? affinity groups,

including the students? family members, fellow students, friendship groups,

community-based support groups, citizen journalists, and academics;

4. Immediately revoke all NCPO Orders and Article 44 of the Interim Constitution

and promptly return all executive and legislative branches of state power to

democratically elected civilians.

Signed:

1. ALIRAN (Malaysia)

2. Article 19

3. Arus Pelangi (Indonesia)

4. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR, ASEAN)

5. ASEAN Youth Forum (ASEAN)

6. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (Burma/Myanmar)

7. Arakan Observer Group (Arakan, Burma)

8. All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress (AASYC, Arakan, Burma)

9. Australian Burmese Rohingya Association (ABRA, Australia)

10. Australia Asia Worker Links (Australia)

11. Australian Unions (ACTU, Australia)

12. Cambodian Human Rights and Development (ADHOC, Cambodia)

13. Centre for Development Resources (CENFORD, Vietnam)

14. Cross-Cultural Foundation (Thailand)

15. Committee for Asian Women and Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (Malaysia)

16. De Nieuwe Universiteit (The Netherlands)

17. Democratic Commission for Human Development (Pakistan)

18. Focus on the Global South

19. Globalization Monitor

20. Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Youth Section (KLSCAHYS,

Malaysia)

21. Malaysia Support Group for democracy in Thailand (Malaysia)

22. Malaysian against Death Penalty & Torture (Malaysia)

23. Malaysian Youth and Students’ Democratic Movement (DEMA, Malaysia)

24. Migrante International

25. Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization (MERHROM, Malaysia)

26. National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (Sri Lanka)

27. National Free Trade Union (Sri Lanka)

28. North South Initiative

29. Socialist Party of Malaysia (Malaysia)

30. Southeast Asia Women’s Caucus on ASEAN (ASEAN)

31. Pax Romana ICMICA Asia

32. Pax Romana International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS) Asia Pacific

33. People Like Us Satu Hati (PLUSH, Yogyakarta, Indonesia)

34. People?s Empowerment Foundation (Thailand)

35. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Malaysia)

36. Protection International

37. Rohingya American Society (RARS, Milwaukee, USA)

38. Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee (RARC, Malaysia)

39. Rohingya Concern International (RCI, New York, USA)

40. Rohingya Youth Development Forum (RYDF, Arakan, Burma)

41. Think Centre (Singapore)

42. Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (Vietnam)

43. Worker Hub for Change (Malaysia)

Individual endorsements

1. David Anthony

2. David Suber, co-President of the Students Union of the London School of Oriental

and African Studies (United Kingdom)

3. Jonelle Twum, supporter from Sweden

4. K Aingkaran, Attorney-at-Law, supporter from Sri Lanka

5. Niza Concepcion, supporter from the Philippines

6. Dr. Paiboon Hengsuwan, Lecturer of Department of Women?s Studies, Faculty of

Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University (Thailand)

7. Rahmayana Fitri, Leader of Youth Development at The Leader and Peace activist

in Aceh (Indonesia)

8. Dr. Ronald McCoy, Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility (Malaysia)

9. Shruti Upadhyay

10. S.K. Priya, 110 Law Chambers (India)

11. William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Defender and Freelance Journalist

(United Kingdom)

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