22 May 2018- Bangkok, 15 pro-democracy activists were charged by police with sedition, violating the junta’s ban on political gathering of five persons under the Head of the NCPO Order and the Road Traffic Act. Police will bring them before the court to request a pre-trial remand of the activists on 23 May 2018. The protesters demanded for no more postponement of the general election and to have the junta step down to have an interim government from civilian administration as it has been already four years since the coup on 22 May 2014.
The first set of arrest of 10 individuals were brought to the Phaya Thai Police Station, Bangkok, where the police pressed five charges against them including Anon Nampa, Chonthicha Jangrew, Nuttaa Mahattana, Ekkachai Hongkangwan, Chokchai Pairatchata, Khiri Khanthong, Putthaising Pimchan, Wirote Trongngamrak, and two other persons who want to remain anonymous. Ten pro-democracy activists were arrested by authorities in front of the UNESCAP building in Bangkok. While being held in custody at the Phaya Thai Police Station, five military officials were seen discussing with the police in the inquiry room.
The charges include Section 116 of the Penal Code or ‘sedition’, Section 215 of the Penal Code (ten persons upwards being assembled together to do or threaten to do an act of violence, or to do anything to cause a breach of the peace), Section 216 of the Penal Code (refusing to disperse after being ordered so by competent official), violations of the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2558’s article 12 prohibiting a political gathering of five persons and more and violations of the Road Traffic Act’s Section 108 (prohibiting walking in line that may obstruct road traffic).
The ten alleged offenders have all denied charges pressed against them by the Phaya Thai Police Station and promised to submit a written statement within 15 June 2018. They also refused to sign the arrest memos.
Other set of 5 protesters was detained at the Chana Songkhram Police Station, Bangkok, which include Rangsiman Rome, Sirawith Seritiwat, Piyarat Chongthep, Wiset Sangkhawisit, and Nikorn Wittayaphan, fellow pro-democracy activists. They were placed under arrest in front of the Thammasat University’s Tha Phrachan Campus. They were held in police custody to have the arrest memos prepared and to be pressed with charges. While in custody awaiting the police procedure, Wiset Sangkhawisit and Nikorn Wittayaphan were examined by a medical doctor and found to have sustained a critical high blood pressure. Their attorneys plead with the police to have the two of them receive medical attention. Both were taken to receive treatment around 20.55, after being placed under custody for over four hours.
Then, the Chana Songkhram Police Station’s inquiry officials prepared arrest memos and pressed altogether six charges against Rangsiman Rome, Sirawith Seritiwat, and Piyarat Chongthep including Section 116 of the Penal Code or ‘sedition’, Section 215 of the Penal Code (ten persons upwards being assembled together to do or threaten to do an act of violence, or to do anything to cause a breach of the peace), Section 216 of the Penal Code (refusing to disperse after being ordered so by competent official), violations of the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2558’s article 12 prohibiting a political gathering of five persons and upward and violations of the Road Traffic Act’s Section 108 (prohibiting walking in line that may obstruct road traffic) and Section 114 for obstructing road traffic.
Around 1.30 am of 23 May 2018, Nikorn Wittayaphan was taken back to the Chana Songkram Police Station from hospital and was pressed with the same charges as the three core members – Rangsiman Rome, Sirawith Seritiwat, and Piyarat Chongthep. All four alleged offenders have denied all charges pressed against them and will submit a written statement later. They also refused to sign the arrest memos. Meanwhile, Nikorn Wittayaphan had continued to show symptoms of sickness and it was expected that he would be able to give his statement to the inquiry officials around 6 am of 23 May 2018.
In addition, Pol Lt Col Prachak Pongpreecha, Deputy Superintendent of Chana Songkhram Police Station has sent a letter to the Rector of Thammasat University on 22 May 2018 urging her to report the case against the pro-democracy activists as the group used the campus as a venue of the gathering.
It is expected that the fifteen alleged offenders, both at the Phaya Thai Police Station and Chana Songkhram Police Station, will have their remand hearing at the Bangkok Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road later in the morning of 23 May 2018.
Charges against them were a result of the pro-democracy demonstrations from early morning of 22 May 2018 which marked the 4th year since the military coup makers took power from the late civilian government. They were set to march from Thammasat University’s Tha Phrachan Campus, where they camped over night, to the Government House but were blocked by rows of police at the main entrance of the university. They were prevented from marching to the Government House to demand the NCPO to hold elections within this year as promosed.
Chronology of the events in the ensuing afternoon can be described in short as follows;
At 1.40 pm, some of the demonstrators arrived at the Democracy Monument hoping to walk toward the Government House. They were all surrounded by plainclothes officials. Upon their arrival at the Makkhawan Bridge in front of the United Nations ESCAP building, the pro-democracy activists were met with police checkpoints. They were told to call off their demonstration and that they were violating the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2558’s Article 12 prohibiting a political gathering of five persons and more. They were asked to terminate their demonstration and disperse. Adamant, the demonstrators insisted that they would not go away and were ready to face legal action.
At 2.37 pm, it was reported that a demonstrator in green shirt was held in custody at the Makkhawan Bridge. It was not clear as to which causes and powers have been invoked to carry out the arrest.
Around 3 pm, the remaining pro-democracy activists at Thammasat University tried to join their fellow demonstrators at the Makkhawan Bridge. A scuffle with walls of barricade and police ensured. Meanwhile in front of the United Nations ESCAP building, both plainclothes and uniform police officials were making a move to place core members of the pro-democracy group under arrest. It led to a commotion between the demonstrator and the officials.
During the clash, it was reported that police made an arrest of two demonstrators and held them in custody inside a vehicle. The other five leading activists – Anon Nampa, Chonthicha Jangrew, Nuttaa Mahattana, Ekkachai Hongkangwan, and Chokchai Pairatchata- preceded the reading of statement in front of the United Nations ESCAP building to condemn the NCPO on its fourth anniversary accusing them of violating human rights and causing economic slump and social problems. They were then placed under arrest and driven by police to the Phaya Thai Police Station.
At 3.30 pm, the remaining pro-democracy activists at the Thammasat University’s Tha Phrachan Campus including Rangsiman Rome, Sirawith ‘New’ Seritiwat and Piyarat ‘Toto’ Chongthep read a statement on the fourth anniversary of the NCPO and then turned themselves in to police. They were then taken to the Chana Songkhram Police Station.