Military Court Releases Chaturon on Bail

Chaturon Chaisang moments after he was released from Bangkok Remand Prison, 6 June 2014

BANGKOK — The military has approved a bail release for former Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang, a prominent critic of the military coup who was arrested during a press conference last month.

Mr. Chaturon is the first civilian to be tried in military court since the military coup d’etat on 22 May. After seizing power, the military junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) granted martial courts jurisdiction over offences related to "national security," which include violation of the NCPO's orders, public protests, and criticism of the monarchy.

The military summoned Mr. Chaturon along with scores of other politicians from the previous government in the wake of the coup, but he refused to surrender himself for almost a week. He emerged from hiding six days later and was arrested during an interview with media at the Foreign Correspondent Club of Thailand on 28 May. He has been held in Bangkok Remand Prison since his arrest.

This morning Mr. Chaturon arrived at the military court, wearing prison apparel and a pair of handcuffs, to apply for his bail release. 

Over 50 supporters of Mr. Chaturon gathered at the entrance of the court to show their support. Some brought flowers for Mr. Chaturon, while others shouted his name as he arrived at the military court. 

Only eight reporters were allowed to attend the court hearing and all were prohibited from taking photos or notes.  

Mr. Chaturon asked judges to release him as he has shown no intention of fleeing the country or resisting authorities, citing his willing surrender to the army at the FCCT. 

The military judges initially rejected his plea, ordering authorities detain him for 12 more days. Shortly afterwards, however, the court decided to grant him release on bail at 400,000 baht.

The bail comes with two conditions: Mr. Chaturon cannot participate in any political activities or leave the country without notifying the NCPO. 

According to Thitima Chaisang, Mr. Chaturon's sister, Mr. Chaturon remains in good spirits and health despite his week-long detention, though she said his elderly father has been greatly troubled since Mr. Chaturon’s arrest.

"He knows he has a son who is a leader," Ms. Thitima said, "But as a father, he is worried for his son. Regardless of where he is held, prison or military camp, it's still considered a loss of [Mr. Chaturon's] basic rights and freedom."

She defended Mr. Chaturon's initial refusal to surrender himself to the military and his criticism of the coup, saying that "he did the right thing, because he didn't want to see people living in inequality. He wants the country to progress … He didn't use any way that advocates violence. He was communicating to the people, so that they understand him."

Although Mr. Chaturon was permitted to seek counsel from his lawyers, the military restricted lawyers' visits while he was detained. Ms. Thitima said he was only allowed to talk to one lawyer at a time.

Meanwhile, Pruek Prueksunan, a well-known Redshirt activist, was released from military custody this morning. Mr. Pruek, aka "Uncle Smile Whose Eyes Are Opened," surrendered himself to the military on 3 June following a summons order by the NCPO. 

 
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