Lawyer Sirikan reports to hear prosecution order, 4th postponement for car case

Lawyer Sirikan reports to hear prosecution order, 4th postponement for car case

On 3 November 2016, Ms Sirikan Charoensiri, as known as June, a human rights lawyer who works for Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) as a legal and documentation specialist, reported to the Dusit District Prosecutor’s Office in Bangkok to hear the prosecution order of her offences on refusing to comply with an order of competent officers and concealing evidence, charged under Sections 142 and 368 of the Thai Criminal Code. The prosecutor, having received the addition investigation of witnesses and evidence from the police, decided to postpone the meeting for the fourth time. Sirikan will report to the public prosecutor again to hear the prosecution order at 9.30 am on 17 January 2017 at the Department of Summary Litigation 3 (Dusit) in Bangkok.

Ms Sirikan Charoensiri with supports from international community

According to the prosecutor, the police had finished the additional investigation of two witnesses and returned the case file back to the office. Earlier, the prosecutor had ordered the police to call additional witnesses for investigation and submit the case file back within 31 August 2016, later postponed to 30 September. Sirikan had previously listed five witnesses: two members of the New Democracy Movement (NDM)—Sirikan’s clients, Ms Yaowalak Anuphan—Head of the TLHR, an inquiry officer who received Sirikan’s complaint of malfeasance in office, and Sirikan herself; however, only two NDM activists, Mr Rangsiman Rome and Ms Chonthicha Jaengrew, were called. Having received further information on the case, the prosecutor stated more time for consideration, thus, rescheduled Sirikan to meet again at the Dusit District Prosecutor’s Office in Bangkok.

Note that this is the fourth postponement of Sirikan’s hearing of prosecution order in this case. The first hearing was set on 12 May 2016. Then it was rescheduled on 27 July 2016. Later, the meeting was postponed to 29 September 2016. Today, it was postponed again to 17 January next year. The case, consequently, has been under the public prosecutor’s consideration for more than six months.

Ms Sirikan Charoensiri and Lt Col Manit Thongkhao at the Samranrat Police Station in Bangkok
Ms Sirikan Charoensiri and Lt Col Manit Thongkhao at the Samranrat Police Station in Bangkok for her sedition and political assembly case

In addition to this case, Sirikan is now facing the charges of breaching the sedition offence under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code, together with violating the Order of the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) no. 3/2015, which prohibits any gatherings of five or more individuals for political purposes. Previously, Sirikan was summonsed to report to the Samranrat Police Station, located in Bangkok, on 27 September 2016. However, due to her attendance at the UN Human Rights Council Session in Geneva during 17 – 24 September, Sirikan was not aware of the summons until her return on 26 September, and submitted a request to the police to postpone the meeting to 22 October 2016. Then Sirikan accordingly reported to the police to be informed of the charges. Based on the notification of charges, the accusations against her made by an army officer, Lt Col Pongsarit Pawangkhanan, claimed that, after the apprehension of 14 NDM students on 26 June 2015 to the Bangkok Military Court, he saw Sirikan carrying a bag and an envelope rushing to her car with haste and, later around midnight, refused to let the officers search her car, where later found 5 cellphones of NDM activists. Further, the military investigation team later investigated photos of Sirikan and found that she had allegedly been involved with NDM activities all along. Subsequently, Lt Col Pongsarit concluded that Sirikan’s alleged acts provide reasonable grounds to believe her association with NDM. Sirikan denied all charges and was informed that she would have until 22 November 2016 to submit a statement and a list of additional witnesses and evidence. She will be tried in a military court if indicted since her alleged acts were committed before the enactment date of the Head of the NCPO Order no.55/2016, which ceases the practice of civilians being tried in military courts, on 12 September 2016.

Further, she received a summons on her offence on submitting a false report to the police, following her filing a complaint of malfeasance in office against Pol Lt Gen Chayapol Chatchayadetch and others for illegally impounding her car on 27 June 2015, after the said protest for democracy. Since the police could not point out which parts of the report was the alleged false information, Sirikan could not be informed of her charges. The international community has expressed concerns on Sirikan’s cases, and released news reports and statements requesting an acquittal of all her charges.

Sirikan’s car was impounded on the night of 26-27 June 2015 by the police

Sirikan is one of the legal representatives for the 14 student activists from the New Democracy Movement (NDM). On the night of 26-27 June 2015, following the after-hour opening of the Bangkok Military Court to investigate the NDM suspects, which resulted in students being brought into custody. The police requested to search Sirikan’s car to confiscate the students’ cellphones. Given that the officials did not have a court warrant and there was no justifiable evidence to conduct a search at night (around midnight of 26 June to 1 am of 27 June 2015), Sirikan refused to consent to the warrantless search. As a result, the police impounded her car, which contained the lawyers’ case files and personal computers, and mobile phones belonging to the students. This caused Sirikan to guard her car in front of the Court all night. Later in the afternoon of 27 June 2015, Sirikan went to a police station to file a complaint of malfeasance regarding the seizure of her car. The police refused to accept the complaint while another police team came with a court warrant to search her car and five phones belonging to the students were seized as evidence. (Read more) Sirikan attempted to file a complaint of malfeasance in office, under Section 157 of the Criminal Code, against Pol Lt Gen Chayapol Chatchayadetch and other officials for illegally impounding her car. A senior investigator told her that the police had power to search her car and suggested that if she filed a complaint, it would not finish there and that the police would consider countering with some form of legal action against her. The police finally accepted the complaint at 11:00pm.

On 2 February, Sirikan was accused of refusing to comply with an order without reasonable cause or excuse after being informed of an order by officials holding power invested by the law, and offence of concealing or making away of property or document ordered by the officers to be sent as evidence or for execution of the law, under Sections 368 and 142 of the Criminal Code, respectively. She also received a summons for the offence of reporting false information concerning a criminal offence to an inquiry official, under Sections 172 and 174 of the Criminal Code.