Top 5 memorable works of the Military Court

 

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The government of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued an announcement No. 37/2014 that put civilians suspected of offences related to national security to be tried under military courts. The announcement was enacted for over two years, and has been revoked by the NCPO itself on 12 September 2016 by the Head of NCPO Order No. 55/2016. 
 
Throughout more than two years, civilians accused of lese majeste, sedition, political gathering, violating the NCPO orders, possessing weapons, and other offences had their cases under the power of military courts. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights found that at least 1,546 civilians have been tried in military courts, some of them were accused in political cases.
 
In theory, The Act on the Organization of the Military Court, B.E.2498 (1955) prescribes the same proceeding in military court as in civilian court. In practice, however, the court officers, prosecutors, and judges are military and are unfamiliar with civilian cases. Many of the cases are in public attention. Some consist of complicated allegations and legal interpretation. As a result, the rights of the accused are missed out of the military court procedure. 
 
From the span of two years, iLaw ranks 5 notable examples of the unusual operation of the military courts that resulted in harming the defendants and the honorability of organizations that trying to exercize the judicial power.
 
 
5. The judge was not presence at the court, issued detention order and bail via phone call
 
Polawat, a resident of Rayong province, was arrested for scattering anti-dictatorship leaflets and was charged with sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code. He was brought before the military court in Nawamintrachini military base in Chonburi Province on 30 March 2015.
 
Polawat and relatives arrived at the court by 9.00 but saw no officials. The court officials started arriving after 10.00. His case is the only one on the court appointment that day. After the inquiry officer submitted a request for provisional detention order and Polawat requested a bail at 11.00, a court official informed that they had made a phone call to the judge who stipulated the bail bond by 70,000 baht.
 
This signified that the judges were not present at the court to consider the detention request from the inquiry official, but were still able to issue a detention order as well as to grant bail. 

 

4. Opened till midnight to issue detention order
 
14 New Democracy Movement activists were arrested in the afternoon of 26 June 2015 following their anti-coup protest at the Democracy Monument. They were charged with holding a political gathering of more than 5 persons and sedition under Section 116 of Criminal Code, and were taken to Phra Ratchawang Police Station. According to normal procedure, after informing the suspect of the charge, the police can detain them at the police station for up to 48 hour. Once the court is open, the police shall bring the suspect to the court to request for dentention order.
 
On that day, however, the police brought the 14 suspects to Bangkok Military Court at 21.30. The court extended its official hour specially for issueing the detention order in this case. The representative lawyers in casual clothes followed the 14 suspects in the late night. The inquiry official submitted a request for detention order while the suspects gave oral objection. Around midnight, Bangkok Military Court issued a detention order, and the suspects were taken to the prison at 00.30  
 

 

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3. Delayed trials, defendant gave up
 
Samak is a farmer from Chiang Rai who was arrested on 8 July 2014 for damaging the King's potrait. He confessed to commiting the offence, but claimed that he was under the influence of alcohol and that he has a record of mental illness treatment. Samak had shown a manic episode, damaging his house and setting fire to his motorcycle. When standing trial, Samak confessed to committing the alleged offence, but wanted to prove his mental disorder to reduce the penalty as indicated in a law that if the defendant committed a crime as a result of mental disorder, the court can consider to reduce the penalty. 
 
Military trials are not continuous. Each trials are 1 - 2 months apart, and might postpone even more if the witness failed to attend. While Samak has been detained for a year, the court managed to examine 3 witnesses for the prosecution, adjourned 3 witness hearings, yet there were many witnesses to be examined that it seemed to take at least more than 1 year to finish. Samak then gave up on the trial and plead guilty, saying that fighting the case for a long time caused him stress and he’d rather plead guilty to end it. 
 
Chiang Rai Military Court sentenced him to 10 years of imprisonment, reducing to 5 years because he plead guilty. His mental health was not brought to the court consideration. 
 
 
2. Verdict without defense attorney
 
Chayapa was arrested on 19 June 2015 after posting a rumour of double coup on Facebook. She was accused of inciting unrest under Section 116, and after her Facebook account was examined, she was also charged with lese majeste under Article 112.
 
Since the public prosecutor had entry the charge, attorney from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has attempted to request for a copy of the indictment. The Military Court initially refused, saying that the indictment has been given to the defendant in prison. The attorney, however, continued to request until the court gave permission on 8 October 2015, but the attorney had not had a chance to consult with the defendant. The attorney also asked for the schedule date, but was told that the court had not set a date for the trial yet.
 
In the night of 14 December 2015, a prison staff informed Chayapa that she was to be brought on trial in the morning. Being in prison, Chayapa was unable to contact anyone. In the morning of 15 December 2015, she stood trial alone, without the presence of relatives or attorney. She had not consulted with her attorney, so as a result, she confessed. The court immeiately delivered a sentence. 
 
The court found Chayapa guilty in several offences. For 2 counts of defaming the monarchy under Article 112, she is to be sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment for each counts, reducing by half to 2 years 6 months, in total 4 years 12 months. For 3 counts of inciting unrest under Section 116, the penalty is 3 years sentence each counts. The court reduced by half to 1 year 6 months, in total 3 years 18  months. Overall, Chayapa was to be imprisoned for 7 years 30 months.  
 
 

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1. Denied bail request after office hour, but accepted the charge at night
 
19 August 2016 was marked for totally different practices at two military courts.
 
At the Bangkok Military Court, 15 suspects in the case of co-founding the Revolutionary Alliance for Democracy Party were brought to have their detention order issued. They were accused with being members of an organized crime group under Section 209 of the Criminal Code and having a political gathering of more than 5 persons. They arrived at the Bangkok Military Court at 15.30 and the court issued the detention order at 16.35. Even though the accused had previously requested for bail, the court officials did not accept the request because the office hour was over. The 15 suspects were then taken to prison.
 
Meanwhile at the military court in Sri Patcharin Military base, Khon Kaen Province, Pai Jatupat was brought to the court for defying the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2015 after flashing an anti-coup banner at the Khon Kaen Democracy Monument on 22 May 2015.  
Pai arrived at the military court on 19.30, which had passed the office hours and the adjudicators had not arrived. The military prosecutor entered the charge at 20.30 and the military court accepted the charge and issued a detention order. During this procedure, outsiders including Pai’s parents were not allowed to enter the military camp where the court is located. 
 
 
1. Denied bail request after office hour, but accepted the charge at night
 
19 August 2016 was marked for totally different practices at two military courts.
 
At the Bangkok Military Court, 15 suspects in the case of co-founding the Revolutionary Alliance for Democracy Party were brought to have their detention order issued. They were accused with being members of an organized crime group under Section 209 of the Criminal Code and having a political gathering of more than 5 persons. They arrived at the Bangkok Military Court at 15.30 and the court issued the detention order at 16.35. Even though the accused had previously requested for bail, the court officials did not accept the request because the office hour was over. The 15 suspects were then taken to prison.
 
Meanwhile at the military court in Sri Patcharin Military base, Khon Kaen Province, Pai Jatupat was brought to the court for defying the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2015 after flashing an anti-coup banner at the Khon Kaen Democracy Monument on 22 May 2015.  
Pai arrived at the military court on 19.30, which had passed the office hours and the adjudicators had not arrived. The military prosecutor entered the charge at 20.30 and the military court accepted the charge and issued a detention order. During this procedure, outsiders including Pai’s parents were not allowed to enter the military camp where the court is located. 
 
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