Students arrested for political gathering will face military court: Thai PM

Students arrested for political gathering will face military court: Thai PM
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

The Prime Minister insisted yesterday that the 14 student activists arrested for violating an order prohibiting political gatherings would have to be tried by a military court.

General Prayut Chan-o-cha said it had been clearly announced after the coup what offences would be tried by a military court and violating an order by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was among those offences.

"The law also applies to other people" [not just this group of students], Prayut said. Orders by coup-makers and the post-coup junta are treated as law in Thailand.

The 14 student activists were arrested for violating the NCPO order against political gatherings of five or more people. They are being detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison after refusing to apply for bail.

Meanwhile, Army commander-in-chief General Udomdej Sitabutr said yesterday the legal case against the student activists would continue, through a military court, as the law must be enforced without exceptions.

He also said that the government and the NCPO did not treat the student activists, or any group of people, as their enemies. "We are not fighting against anyone. We just try to maintain peace and aim to restore democracy in the future," he said.

Udomdej, who is also deputy defence minister, said the authorities would not allow lawbreakers to go free without enforcing the law.

The 14 students are due to appear before a military court today after the period allowed for their detention expires.

Lawyers for the students plan to oppose any police request for court permission to detain the students for another 12 days, Kritsadang Nutcharas, leader of their legal team, said yesterday. He said they would object to any military court order for another round of pre-trial detention.

"The detention is unnecessary because there is not any potential that the defendants will escape. So we will object to it," he said.

The military court will issue an order today on whether to allow detention of the 14 student activists for another 12 days.

Kritsadang said yesterday the 14 detainees were still standing their ground and they rejected the military court's authority in put them on trial. They were willing to fight in a civil court, he said.

However, he said that if the trial was to take place in a military court, the 14 detainees asked that an open hearing be allowed. Their families, friends and the general public should be allowed to observe the case.

Yesterday, many supporters showed up at the Bangkok Remand Prison to provide the detainees with moral support.

A representative of the lecturers network supporting the detained students, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he believed the NCPO had heard the people's voice and they might not order another round of detention.

He said that if the military court does not grant a request for further detention of the student today, all of them would be released temporarily tomorrow. However, questioning of the students would continue.

Yesterday, five Dao Din members - Payu Boonsophon, Jatupat Boonpatararaksa, Suwitcha Pitankkorn, Panupong Sritananuwat and Apiwat Soontarak - were questioned.

They denied the charges against them and told the police they would submit an official letter later. They testified that during the arrest the officials did not introduce themselves and were not in uniform. No arrest warrants were shown to them, they were not informed of their rights and soldiers also took part in the arrest, the students said during their interrogation. The students said they viewed the arrest as contrary to the criminal procedure code and a violation of the international treaty which Thailand is a signatory to and obliged to follow.

More than 100 people gathered at Thammasat University yesterday to offer moral support to the detained activists. They included friends and family members of the detainees. Some participants of the "Wings of Freedom" event took turns to speak on stage to voice disapproval of the students' arrest and the subsequent legal case mounted against them. Others made origami pigeons symbolising freedom and wrote messages on a big piece of cloth.

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