Thai police charge anti-junta protesters with sedition

Fifteen anti-junta activists were charged with sedition Thursday, a crime carrying seven years in jail, their lawyer said, for staging a protest this week to mark the fourth anniversary of the last coup by Thailand’s generals.

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The protest on Tuesday was small by the standards of Thailand’s rambunctious street politics, but still dominated the headlines in a country wearying of junta rule.

A few hundred people tried unsuccessfully to march on the seat of government in Bangkok to call for promised elections – a poll which the junta keeps pushing back.

The suspects included protest leaders Rangsiman Rome, Ekachai Hongkangwan and Sirawith Seritiwat – perennial thorns in the side of the military which toppled the civilian government on May 22, 2014.

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The junta has since banned protests and political gatherings of more than five people.

On top of sedition, the activists were also charged with the “illegal gathering of more than 10 people, obstructing traffic and causing a disturbance“, Pawinee Chumsri, of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights who are representing the group, told AFP.

Sedition is punishable by a maximum of seven years in prison.

Continue reading: NST

Security footage shows female tourist kidnapped by four men at Thailand airport

Security footage from a Bangkok airport has caught the moment a Chinese tourist was kidnapped by four men and one woman when she stepped off a flight from Hong Kong.

After Jincai Chen, 39, landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on May 6, a group of four Chinese men dressed in black and one Thai woman began following her.

CCTV footage of the incident shows Chen struggling while two members of the gang hold her by the arms and walk her through the airport towards a van waiting outside. Another member of the group can be seen walking a few steps in front, guiding the group throughout the abduction.

Source: Newsweek

Thailand: Free 14 Pro-Democracy Activists

Thai authorities should immediately drop all charges and unconditionally release 14 pro-democracy activists who peacefully expressed opposition to military rule, Human Rights Watch said today. The 14 are charged with sedition, which carries a maximum seven-year prison term, and violating the military junta’s ban on political gatherings of more than five people.

“The arrest of peaceful democracy activists calling for free and fair elections shows that Thailand’s military junta has no intention of easing its oppressive rule,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Gagging peaceful public protests makes a mockery of Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha’s self-proclaimed commitment to return Thailand to democracy.”

On May 22, 2018, a peaceful rally was held in front of the United Nations compound in Bangkok to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2014 military coup. Police broke up the rally and arrested leaders and members of the “We Want Election” movement after they read a statement calling for the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to lift all restrictions on fundamental freedoms and hold promised elections.

The 14 pro-democracy activists being held at Phayathai Police Station and Chanasongkram Police Station in Bangkok are: Nuttaa Mahattana, Chonthicha Jangrew, Anon Numpa, Rangsiman Rome, Sirawith Seritiwat, Piyarat Chongthep, Ekachai Hongkangwan, Chokchai Paiboonratchata, Kiri Khanthong, Putthaising Pimchan, Roj Trong-ngarmrak, Viset Sangkhavisit, Pattarapol Jankot, and Prasong Wangwan.

Continue reading: Human Rights Watch

Thai police block pro-democracy march on coup anniversary

Thai anti-government protesters demanding general elections by November were blocked by police on the fourth anniversary of the military coup in the country.

Some 3,000 police officers were deployed to prevent some 200 protesters, camping at Thammasat University in the capital, Bangkok, from marching to the Government House. The Government House and surrounding streets were declared a no-go zone.

On May 22, 2014, a bloodless military coup toppled Thailand’s elected government.

The military government vowed reform and reconciliation for a politically divided Thailand but its rule has been tarnished by corruption scandals and repeated postponement of promised elections.

Ban on political activities

Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Bangkok, said the police warned the protesters that they can be arrested and convicted of violating the military government’s ban on political activities, which says crowd of five people or more are outlawed.

“Initially the protesters camped out overnight in Thammasat University and they had the permission to do that, but on Tuesday morning their permission was revoked,” he said.

“It’s a small protest at the moment, but it has probably been the most significant sign of resistance of protest movement against the military.”

A handful of protesters pushed up against police for several minutes to try to achieve their objective to march to the Government House before they were pushed back by the police forces.

One of the protest organisers, Sirawith Seritiwat, also known as Ja New, said protesters planned to march peacefully.

“I hope they will let us walk out. We have no intention to prolong today’s activities. I think they will try to stop us … we will not use violence,” Sirawith told Reuters news agency.

The government has delayed the general election repeatedly, which was first set for 2015, with the latest date now February 2019.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha reiterated on Tuesday that a general election will take place in “early 2019 and no sooner”.

Thailand has been rocked by pro- and anti-government street protests for more than a decade, some of them deadly.

The military says it carried out the 2014 coup to end the cycle of violence.

Source: Aljazeera

Thailand: 8 Pheu Thai Executives Hear Sedition, Computer Crimes Charges

Eight Pheu Thai Party executives reported to police Monday to hear charges of sedition, violation of the ban on political gatherings of more than four people and the Computer Crimes Act.

The charges were made after the eight party executives held a press conference criticizing the junta’s failures after four years in power. They include former education minister Chaturon Chaisang, former deputy premier Kittiratt Na Ranong and former commerce minister Watana Muangsook.

Phumtham Wechayachai, one of the eight, said he doesn’t believe the charges will lead to the party’s dissolution.

Some 200 supporters showed up at Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok.

Source: Khaosod English

Multiple bomb attacks hit ThaiSouth, injure three people

Multiple bomb attacks by suspected separatist insurgents injured at least three people in Thailand’s far south on Sunday (May 20), the military said.

A decades-old separatist insurgency in predominantly Buddhist Thailand’s largely ethnic Malay, Muslim provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat has claimed the lives of nearly 7,000 people since 2004, according to the Deep South Watch group, which monitors the violence.

Successive governments have held talks with rebel groups aimed at bringing peace but the discussions have largely stalled, including under the current, military government.

In Sunday’s attacks, explosives were placed near ATM machines and bank branches in at least 14 locations across four southern provinces, including Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, as well as Songkhla province, the military said.

Continue reading: Channel NewsAsia

In Thailand, No Justice 8 Years After Bangkok Crackdown

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Eight years ago my colleagues and I watched as the streets of Bangkok were covered with blood in one of Thailand’s most violent political confrontations. Yet there is still no justice for the at least 98 people killed and more than 2,000 injured between April and May 2010 – despite compelling evidence that the military was behind most of these abuses.
At the time, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship – also known as the Red Shirts – held a mass protest against the government of then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Human Rights Watch documented how the military used unnecessary and excessive force, especially as the military had designated “live fire zones” around protest sites – where soldiers shot protesters, medics, reporters, and bystanders in cold blood.

Continue reading: Human Rights Watch