22 June 2015
Thailand – Student human rights defenders face arrest
Seven student human rights defenders face arrest in Thailand, alongside nine other student activists. The risk of arrest is attached to an order for the students to present themselves to the police in the provinces of Khon Kaen and Bangkok. The students were originally detained on 22 May 2015, after their staging of peaceful protests, before being released on bail.
The seven student human rights defenders, Messrs Chatupat Boonyapatraksa, Anuwat Suntararak, Payu Boonsopon, Panupong Srithananuwat, Suvicha Tipangkorn, Supachai Pukrongploy and Wasant Satesit are members of the Dao Din group at Khon Kaen University. Dao Din is a human rights society engaged in peaceful action and protest against restrictions on human rights within Thailand. It focuses in particular on the repression of the right to freedom of assembly in the aftermath of the military coup which took place in 2014. The group also supports communities in upholding their rights in relation to alleged violations connected to development projects and extractive industries in the north-east of the country. The group has been recognised by the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand for its work.
The seven members of Dao Din were detained at approximately 1 pm on 22 May 2015, the first anniversary of the military coup, while staging a peaceful protest against the military rule. The protest, which took place at the Democracy Monument in the city of Khon Kaen, also concerned forced evictions of rural communities in north-eastern Thailand, which are being committed to make way for the expansion of extractive industries and development projects in the region. The students were released on bail on the 23 May 2015. The nine Bangkok based student activists were detained on the evening of same date, following their participation that day in a peaceful demonstration against the military coup at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre.
In accordance with the conditions of their bail, the members of Dao Din were ordered to appear at a police station in Khon Kaen province on 19 June 2015. The students refused to appear, and on the same date publicly announced that they were in Loei province and ready to be arrested. Over 100 military and police officers were deployed in Khon Kaen on the 19 June, reportedly to monitor any movement of members of the Dao Din group.
The nine Bangkok-based students have been ordered to present themselves at Pathumwan Police Station at 1 pm on 24 June 2015, when charges against them may be formalised. They refused to comply with a previous order to appear on 19 June 2015.
All 16 students face charges under National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) order no. 7/2557, which forbids political gatherings or assemblies of more than five people. They risk up to one year imprisonment and fines.
Students engaged with human rights issues in Thailand have faced restrictions of their activities and personal harassment since the military coup. Dao Din members, as well as their families, have been summoned, monitored and threatened by the authorities in an attempt to disrupt and dissuade them from continuing their peaceful human rights work. The wider student community has also faced repression during this period as the military dictatorship seeks to clampdown on any student activity which is deemed contrary to the stability of the regime. Universities have been subjected to visits by armed troops, whilst university staff have reportedly been instructed to monitor the activities of students and student groups that criticise state authorities.
Front Line Defenders expresses its concern at the threat of arrest faced by the Deo Din members and the other student activists. Front Line Defenders strongly believes that the actions against them are being taken solely as a result of their legitimate and peaceful exercise of their right to peaceful protest.