Martial Court to Rule on Release of 14 Anti-Junta Dissidents Tomorrow

Students inside a mock prison cell made of pipes at Thammasat University to show solidarity with the 14 activists in jail, 5 July 2015.

BANGKOK — Bangkok's military court will rule tomorrow on whether to extend the detention of fourteen anti-junta activists amid mounting support from the public to release the group.

One of the activists' lawyers, Kritsadang Nutcharus, said his legal team will ask the court to release the 14 activists, most of whom are students, on the grounds that they have no intention to flee the country.

The fourteen activists, who are facing charges of violating the junta's ban on protests and inciting unrest, were sent to jail by the court after they were arrested on 26 June for leading a peaceful pro-democracy rally in Bangkok. If found guilty, they face up to seven and a half years in prison. 

Under Thai laws, a court can order suspects to be remanded in prison for 12 days at a time. The session can be extended by the court up to seven times.

"If the court approves the second remand session, the students will have be to detained in prison, as they were," Kritsadang said. "But no matter how the court will rule, as a lawyer I will accept the decision, and I will contest the remand when the next session ends." 

Kritsadang said the activists remain in good spirits, although some of them have picked up minor illnesses in prison.

"The students insist to carry on their fight, because they are confident they are doing the right thing," he said. 

Over the past week, hundreds of Thais have defied the junta's ban on political gatherings to show their support for the activists, who have pledged not to apply for bail because they reject the military court's legitimacy to try civilians. The ruling junta granted military courts jurisdiction over "national security" cases after seizing power in a coup in May 2014.

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Chiang Mai residents hung post-it notes expressing support for the 14 pro-democracy activists jailed in Bangkok, 5 July 2015.

The latest public show of solidarity for the group took place last night when over 200 people gathered in front of Chiang Mai University and hung post-it notes on the university's gate expressing support for the imprisoned activists. Some post-it notes also repeated the activists' core values of "democracy, human rights, public participation, justice, and non-violence." A similar event was held in Bangkok on Friday night. 

Approximately 200 security officers, mostly soldiers from 33rd Development Corps, observed the event in Chiang Mai but did not interfere. The activists dispersed peacefully from the scene shortly after sundown. 

In Bangkok, allies of the activists have held nightly candlelight vigils and gatherings, mostly in front of the prison where the group is being detained. 

Some students have also staged daily sit-ins inside a mock prison cell made of pipes at Thammasat University in Bangkok to show their solidarity with the fourteen, eleven of whom are university students as well.

So far, leading members of the junta have dismissed calls from the public – and bodies like the UN and EU – to release the activists.

Gen. Udomdet Sitabutr, commander of the Thai army and secretary of the ruling military junta, repeated this morning that authorities have no plans to interfere with the judicial process.

"They [the fourteen] have committed actions that are inappropriate. Their actions caused unrest and violated the laws, and violated the rules that the NCPO has set down for the sake of peace," he said, referring to the junta's National Council for Peace and Order. "We started by warning them, step by step. But they still did things that could lead to unrest and affect the country’s stability in the future. In the end, we are letting the laws handle them." 

"We cannot neglect this issue," he continued. "Otherwise, problems will develop gradually and lead to other troubles, and unrest. We see disaster looming ahead of us. I am confident that the people understand this … Allow me to insist that the government and the NCPO do not see any group of people as our enemies. We are not fighting anyone. We are merely taking care of and building peace in the society, in order to lead to a correct form of democracy in the future." 

 

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