BANGKOK — The criminal court has accepted a lawsuit filed by a group of activists seeking to hold Thailand’s military junta legally responsible for staging its coup d’etat against the former government last May.
Fifteen activists from an anti-junta group called Resistant Citizens first filed suit on 22 May 2015 – the anniversary of the coup – but the court dismissed it on the grounds that the defendants had granted themselves blanket legal amnesty for the military takeover.
The activists re-filed the lawsuit late last month, and the court announced yesterday it would accept the case, according to Arnon Nampha, a lawyer and leading member of Resistant Citizens.
Arnon said the lawsuit accuses the five coup makers with high treason under Section 113 of the Thai Penal Code, which outlaws armed insurrection against the constitution, government or monarchy.
The five include Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who now wields near-absolute power as junta chairman and Prime Minister. The charge carries a death penalty.
“Now that the plaintiff’s case has been accepted, the court must conduct trials and deliberate on the case as required by legal system,” Arnon said. “It must not shy away from the effort to seek the truth, which is the cornerstone of justice system. It must not deny the plaintiff the rights to prove that the action of the defendants violated the laws.”
Gen. Prayuth, who was serving as army chief at the time, unilaterally imposed martial law across the country on 20 May, 2014, amidst street protests against the elected government. He seized power two days later, citing the need to restore peace and order to the country.
The general later dissolved the constitution and enacted an interim charter, which includes a legal amnesty for him and other coup makers for staging the military takeover.
Asked to comment on the lawsuit, Gen. Prayuth replied curtly that the activists are welcome to pursue the legal case.
“So be it. So what? I did it, so what? What are they going to punish me for?” Gen. Prayuth said today during a press conference at Government House.
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