Jailed Activists Insist on Unconditional Release

'Voting no is our right, it's not illegal!' activists opposed to the junta-backed charter referendum shout as they were brought to a military court Tuesday in Bangkok.

BANGKOK  —  Seven activists imprisoned for campaigning against the junta’s draft charter said today they will accept no less than immediate, unconditional release.

In the military courtroom Tuesday to hear whether the judges order them held another 12 days, the defendants held to their position that the court lacks the legitimacy to try them or require them to post bail.

“We seven have to endure these conditions. It’s not an easy life; I have lost 13 kilograms in prison” said activist Rangsiman Rome, wearing shackles and brown prisoner garb. “But we won’t seek bail because we did nothing wrong.”

Jailed Activists Describe Life in Prison

He added that he and other activists are still in good spirits and will continue to oppose the junta.

“All of us can still smile,” Rangsiman said, while other activists on the defendants’ bench nodded.

The court was originally scheduled to issue its ruling at 9am, but police investigators abruptly notified the court they would show up at 1pm, postponing the session several hours.

The defendants have already been jailed at Bangkok Remand Prison for 12 days; they can be held up to 84 days before prosecutors file or drop charges.

The seven prisoners were among 13 people arrested in a southeastern Bangkok suburb on June 23 for handing out leaflets urging the public to reject the junta-backed constitution draft when its put to referendum on August 7.

They are all charged with violating the juntas ban on protest and referendum law; the latter outlaws any campaign for or against the charter.

Their lawyer, Krisadang Nutcharus, said although he hopes the court will free them while they await trial, he’s not optimistic.

“We don’t have much hope today,” Krisadang said.

While Rangsiman and his fellow activists refused to post bonds, six other suspects did so.

Phanthip Saeng-athit, 22, is one of those six. Asked to comment on the seven activists’ hardline stance of unconditional release, she said she respects their “sacrifice.”

“They are making a sacrifice. They want the public to have their eyes opened and see this injustice,” said Phanthip, who just graduated from Thammasat University’s Political Science several months ago.

Despite her bail condition which forbids any political activism, Phanthip said she will try to find a way to continue her campaign against the junta’s charter.

Rangsiman said he wants the public to look at how the regime treats its dissidents when they decide whether to vote yes or no on the Aug. 7 referendum.

“It’s been clear since the beginning that this won’t be a free and fair referendum, but our arrests and imprisonment are a practical proof of that,” Rangsiman said. “People should ask themselves: what kind of a constitution gets passed by putting people in prison? How can it be good?”