Thailand: Police studying footage to nail supporters of anti-coup students

Thailand: Police studying footage to nail supporters of anti-coup students
14 student activists were detained for violating government orders.
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

INVESTIGATORS are studying CCTV images to determine supporters of the 14 student activists, who are being detained for violating government orders, the Metropolitan Police chief said yesterday.

Bangkok police chief Pol Lt-General Sriwara Rangsiphramanakul said he had ordered investigators to gather evidence in the form of security-camera footage, in addition to documents. "We will summon all the people found to be involved," he said, adding that police had not yet sought arrest warrants for other suspects.

The authorities have threatened to take legal action against people they think were behind the anti-coup activities by a student group called Neo Democracy Movement (NDM). The 14 detainees were part of this group. Police have confiscated many items after searching the detainees' lawyers' cars, including five mobile phones, senior Metropolitan Police officer Pol Maj-General Chayapol Chatchaiyadej said yesterday.

He said the information gathered would be used to establish links between the detainees and the possible mastermind.

Police investigators will question the 14 students on Friday at the Bangkok Remand Prison and the Women's Correctional Institution, located within the Klong Prem Central Prison, a source from the detainees' legal team said. The questioning will be conducted in the presence of the legal team. The detainees had rejected police request to carry out the inquiry before members of the Lawyers Council of Thailand.

After their arrest last Friday, police have been trying to interrogate them since Saturday, but the detainees have refused to co-operate. The students insist that the questioning be conducted in the presence of their lawyers, not those provided by the police.

The detainees yesterday were visited by members of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and NDM, as well as relatives and some 40 supporters. The Corrections authorities only allow one 20-minute visit 11.10am daily. The visitors were asked to avoid any political gestures during the visit, Thammasat University law lecturer Piyabutr Saengkanokkul said.

The authorised lawyers were allowed to discuss the case with the detainees. One of them, whose name is withheld, said the students still stood firm about not seeking bail. The lawyers are looking at the charges pressed against the students, and if they face sedition charges under Article 116, they will fight and deny them, he said.

Other proceedings would be disclosed after the interrogation on Friday, he reiterated.

Despite the presence of a few officials, who filmed the event, the overall atmosphere at the remand was good. Some 40 supporters as well as the students' friends and family visited, including academics from Chulalongkorn and Thammasat universties such as Puangthong Pawakapan and Yukti Mukdawijitra.

After the visit, the visitors confirmed that all the detainees were well and remained committed to fight for democracy. However, they said the detainees' hair had been cut short in accordance with prison rules.

"Everybody is fine. They are still in good spirits and cheerful. And everything is the same. They will not seek bail," the girlfriend of one of the detainees said.

Meanwhile, a campaign via change.org seeking their release has garnered more than 10,000 of the 15,000 targeted signatures on the second day of campaign yesterday.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday refused to answer questions about the issue, as he was headed to Chiang Mai for a mobile Cabinet meeting.

In a related development, the military court yesterday granted bail to two other student activists who were arrested separately for violating the ban on political gatherings of five or more people.

Natcha Kong-udom and Somchart Kaedam were released on bail of Bt10,000 (S$399) each.

Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn said yesterday that Thailand was far safer and peaceful now than in the past. "I believe foreigners will have a good understanding if they are aware of this fact," he said in response to criticism from foreign countries over the arrest of student activists.

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