BANGKOK — Thailand's military junta has warned those advocating for the execution of rapists not to violate the ban on public gatherings.
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued the warning after famous Thai actress Panadda Wongpoodee and a dozen of students staged a small demonstration at a train station in Nakhon Si Thammarat province to voice their support for punishing convicted rapists with the death penalty.
Plans for another rally at Siam Paragon shopping mall in Bangkok this Saturday have also been circulated on social media. Convicted rapists currently face 5-20 years in prison.
The outrage follows the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl on a night train over the weekend. Police say a state railway employee confessed to sexually assaulting the victim in a sleeping car and throwing her out of the window afterwards. The suspect, Wanchai Saengkhao, is facing charges of premeditated murder, sexual assault, and drug abuse.
"These demonstrations are held under martial law," Col. Winthai Suwaree, a spokesperson of the NCPO, said today. "All types of demonstrations, whether about political or other issues, violate martial law."
The NCPO has harshly enforced its ban on public gatherings against protesters who participate in any kind of anti-coup demonstrations, including flashing the three-finger salute or eating sandwiches. However, the NCPO has not made a single arrest of anyone participating in a pro-coup or pro-army rally. Those who violate the NCPO's ban on protests may face a trial in military court and up to two years in prison.
Col. Winthai suggested that instead of demonstrating or organising rallies, those who would like to change the punishment for rape crimes should submit proposals to NCPO chairman Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha.
"[The NCPO] is a functioning agency. That is the most appropriate channel at this moment," Col. Winthai added, though he refused to comment on whether the NCPO agrees with the pro-death penalty campaign.
Today, contestants of the 2014 Miss Grand Thailand beauty pageant did in fact submit a proposal to the NCPO in favor of revising the criminal code to include execution as a punishment for rape.
The proposal also requested increased security across the country with at least two security personnel guarding “risk” areas, an information campaign teaching women about self-defense methods, and new NCPO policies to deter criminals.
“Miss Grand Thailand 2014 greatly hopes to see a revision in the law for the increased safety of women so that offenders will not get off scot-free in our society or receive too light a sentence,” said Miss Grand Thailand Director Nawat Isarnkraisiln, who accompanied the pageant contestants today.