April 2016: 8 Facebook page administrators charged under Section 116, “Wearing White and just standing” activists arrested, and Referendum Act now in effect

Period 22 May 2014 – 31 April 2016 April 2016
Number of individuals summoned 915 4
Arrests at peaceful demonstrations 224 10
Individuals prosecuted before military court 167 9
Individuals prosecuted before civilian court 49 1
Number of individuals charged with lese majeste offense (Article 112) 66 3
Number of individuals detained under lese majeste charge 53


In April 2016, the political issues were as hot as the weather, which could reach as high as 40 °C. For updates on freedom of expression cases, this month two cases had scheduled for testimony; Jittra Kodchadet’s Defying NCPO order case and Sombat Boonngam-Anong’s Section 116 case.Sao’s Section 112 case (a petition filed to the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions) and the Train Ride to Rajabhakti Park, which the military prosecutor filed charges. Jam’s Section 116 case (Posting on Facebook about Rajabhakti Park scandal), which the prosecutor did not file charges. There other important updates for the consideration on jurisdiction power of the courts over three cases; Pansak: March for Justice, which the Criminal Court agreed that it was under the military court, the Committee agreed that one part of Mr. Chaturon Chaisang’s Section 116 case was under the civilian court and another was under the military court.       

 

Other than updates on cases, there were serious issues on freedom of expression as well. Mr. Watana Muangsook, a Pheu Thai Party member, was detained during Songkran holiday. In response to that, the Resistant Citizen activists held a symbolic protest by standing still demanding Watana’s release. Later on the military, by the authority of the Computer Crime Act, arrested all 9 activists in the early morning of 27 April. Additionally, they were charged under Section 116 as well. The Resistant Citizen activists in white held this protest regularly. Every time the group leader would be taken to a police station without being charged for defying the NCPO orders. Some were charged under the Public Assembly Act or they were just detained temporary.

 

Arresting 9 people associated with the Facebook page “We love Gen. Prayut”. Then 8 of them were charged under Section 116.  

Around 7.30 hrs., 27 April 2016, Anon Numpa, a human rights lawyer, posted on his Facebook that there were at least 5 people arrested. Then the NCPO Spokesman informed that at least 10 people were arrested (it was confirmed later that the military arrested 9 people). At first the military wanted to question the 10 arrestees, because their actions deemed violating the Computer Crime Act. Later that night, Nithi, one of the arrestees, posted on his Facebook that he was released but others were still detained.   

The arrests of 9 people led to a widespread criticism on the internet especially on the ground of these arrests. On 28 April 2016, the 8 arrestees were brought in for a press briefing. They had been charged under Section 116 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crime Act after creating an anti-government Facebook page. On 29 April 2016, the 8 defendants were taken from the Crime Suppression Division, Thai Police, to the Military Court for their detention. The lawyer filed 100,000 Baht bails for each defendant. The Court denied bails and reasoned that the circumstances of the case were extreme and the action had been carefully organized. 7 male defendants were detained at Bangkok Remand Prison. The only 1 female was taken to Central Women Correctional Institution.      

Updates on other Section 116 Cases: Witness testimony postponed for Bor Kor Lai Jood’s Case and the military prosecutor did not file the case of disseminating of false information.   

Other than arresting and pressing charges under the Section 116 to the 8 defendants who co-created the “We love Gen. Prayut” page, there were updates on 2 cases during this month. One was Sombat Boonngam-Anong’s witness testimony for the case of posting an encouraging message to the public to protest against the coup. Another was that the military prosecutor did not file the charge against Jam, who was accused of posting Rajabhakti Park scandal.      

Sombat Boonngam-Anong’s Case. The Military Court scheduled for the testimony on 27 April 2016. The military prosecutor requested another postponement, because Pol Lt Col Santipat Prommajul, a forensic science expert, who was the plaintiff’s witness, was on urgent duties. The Court considered the ground and granted the permission to postpone the testimony to 22 July 2016, 08.30.  

Jam’s Case. The military prosecutor scheduled the defendant to hear the order whether to file the charge. On 19 April 2016, the inquiry official arrived at the Court at 12.00 hrs. The military prosecutor informed Jam and the inquiry official that for this case the Chief of Military Prosecutors reasoned that it was not a crime under the Section 116 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crime Act. The civilians’ cases were not under the Military Court’s jurisdiction. The prosecutor handed over the case back to the inquiry official to be proceeded by the Court of Justice.      

47 individuals have been charged under Section 116 of the Criminal Code, since the 2014 coup until April 2016. 

   

The Jurisdiction Issue: March for Justice Case faced the Military Court and Chaturon’s case filed separately.    

There were orders on the jurisdictions of 2 cases for this month. One was the case of Pansak’s March for Justice and Chaturon’s case. They were filed under three charges; Defying NCPO order, Section 116 of the Criminal Code, and Computer Crime Act for posting online and hold a press briefing on denying the junta’s authority.

Pansak’s March for Justice case. Pansak was charged under the Section 116 of the Criminal Code, Defying NCPO order 7/2014, a ban on political gatherings, and the Computer Related Crime Act. These charges were pressed against Pansak after he held an activity on 5 November 2015 by walking to the Military Court demanding civilians not to be tried by the Military Court, and opposing its jurisdiction. He reasoned that order 7/2014 and 37/2014, Civilians were still subject to military court jurisdictions in certain crimes, had no legitimacy and were against the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Thailand was a member. According to the Covenant, Article 14(1) All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals, and Article 14(5) the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law. After Pansak handed his petition opposing the Military Court’s jurisdictions, the Court informed that this petition would be passed on to the Criminal Court. After the Criminal Court had concluded their decision they Military Court would call Pansak and the military prosecutor to receive the decision.          

On 1 April 2016, the Military Court scheduled Pansak to receive the final decision on the jurisdiction issues. It was concluded that the NCPO orders were legitimate. This was because the NCPO successfully staged the coup and took power. The order for the civilians to be tried before the Military Court was therefore applied for this case. So the Criminal Court agreed that the case was to be tried under the Military Court’s jurisdiction.

Chaturon Chaisang’s case. Chaturon had been summoned but he failed to report to. He posted online confirming his ground on opposing the NCPO legitimacy. He invited the media to a press briefing at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand on 27 May 2014. He filed a petition opposing the Military Court’s jurisdiction on 15 October 2014. He reason that the summons had been issued before the order for the civilians to be tried before the Military Court was effective. Even the posting accusation and the press briefing happened after the order came to be effective, but the order was against the 2014 Interim Constitution, Section 4, which subject to the provisions of this Constitution, human dignity, rights, liberties and equality previously enjoyed by the Thai people with the protection under Thailand’s administrative conventions of the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State and Thailand’s existing international obligations shall be protected under this Constitution. Later the Military Court and the Bangkok South Criminal Court disagreed on their jurisdictions. Their decisions were passed on to the Adjudication Committee for Power and Duty of Court who would judge the contradiction.             

0n 25 April 2016, the Military Court scheduled for the verdict hearing of the Adjudication Committee. It was read that the case of defying summons order was under the Bangkok South Criminal Court’s jurisdiction. While the Section 116 and the Computer Crime Act cases were for the Military Court. After the verdict was read the judge ordered the defying summons order case to be removed from the case list. And the judge scheduled for witness testimony on 1 June 2016 at 08.30 hrs., for the Section 116 and the Computer Crime Act cases.     

 

Updates on Section 112 Cases: The military prosecutor filed suit against a defendant submitting a case before the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions. The military took Burin, one of the “Standing Still” activists, from the police station then charged with lese majeste. 2 people accused of “We love Gen. Prayut” case charged with lese majeste. 

 

There was no witness testimony for Section 112 cases in April. But there was an update when the military prosecutor filed charges against Sao, a defendant who was diagnosed with mental disorder but was able to defend the case. Another update was that the military took Burin, an activist participated in wearing a white shirt and standing still protest. Burin was being questioned for the gathering when he was taken to an army camp and later charged under Section 112.  

Sao’s Case. Sao was charged under Section 112 of the Criminal Code after submitting a case before the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions on 13 March 2015. Sao had claimed that an important figure communicated with him through television. The person told him to get money back from Mr. Thaksin. Soa filed a complaint that led to prosecution. During the investigation and before Sao’s 84-day detention period expired, the inquiry official requested the judge that Sao should be sent to Galyarajanagarindra Institute for a mental status examination. The psychiatric concluded that Sao was suffered from mental disorder but could defend his case. The military prosecutor therefore filed a suit on 20 April 2016. On the same day, Sao was released on bail with a Government Savings Bank's Lottery valued 400,000 Baht.       

 
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A sketch of the situation while waiting in the military prosecutor’s room, Judge Advocate General's Department for the military prosecutor’s order on the Section 112 case,
 

Burin’s Case. Burin was one of the activists joined in “Wearing white and standing still” protest at the Victory Monument on 27 April 2016. They demanded the NCPO to release other 9 activists who were arrested in that morning. Burin and 16 protesters, who were the Resistant Citizen activists namely Anon Numpa and Pansak Srithep, as well as Pakorn Areekul of the New Democracy Movement, were arrested by the police and taken from the Victory Monument to Phayathai Police Station, which was responsible in the area and for investigation. Some military personnel took Burin away while being questioned. 

Burin had been detained by the military from 27 until 29 April. He was taken to the Technology Crime Suspension Division to be charged before being taken to the Military Court for his detention on 30 April 2016. As of now Burin had not filed a bail and was detained at Bangkok Remand Prison.  

Another update on Section 112 case was Harit and Nattika, 2 of the 8 accused of “We love Gen. Prayut” Facebook page case, also faced lese majeste charges. The reasons led to these additional charges were unknown. Harit informed the press that the military held messages on Facebook Messenger as evidence.     

 

Former Pheu Thai MPs from Nan Province met the Military regarding the red bowls. Watana detained after more Facebook posts

This happened after a lady who took a picture with a red bowl that had Thaksin Shinawatra’s signature on it, was charged under Section 116 in March 2016. Later in April 2016 there was another investigation and a raid to seize more red bowls at the office of 3 ex-Pheu Thai MPs in Nan Province. Dr. Chonlanan Srikaew, a former Pheu Thai MP was summoned to Fort Suriyapong to talk about the red bowls seized on 8 April 2016. Dr. Chonlanan later said that the talk went well without pressure. 

However Mr. Watana Muangsook’s summons was more serious. On 13 April 2016 Watana posted on his Facebook after the two major political parties opposed the draft constitution. Watana was informed that the military would come and get him. Watana told the military that on the 13th he was not available, but he agreed on the 14th. Then some military personnel waited outside Watana’s residence. On the 15th he posted again asked the military to stand by and he would turn himself in at the 11th Military Circle on 18 April 2016.     

On the day Watana went to the 11th Military Circle. He told the press before that if he was not released by 15.00 hrs., then the NCPO unlawfully detained him. If so Watana would file a suit against them. In the evening of 20 April 2016, Watana was still detained by the military. A representative of the NCPO came to the Crime Suspension Division and filed Watana for defying the NCPO order No. 39/2014; no involvement with political activities. On 21 April 2016 Watana was detained at the Military Court. He later was released from Bangkok Remand Prison in the evening after a bail was granted.   

 

 

Busy Military. 10 people summoned in 1 day. 9 seriously charged. 

On 27 April, by the authority of the NCPO order No. 3/2015, the military carried out 2 actions. In the morning the military arrested 9 people accused of being involved with an anti-government Facebook page. A relative of Noppakao, an accused, said that at 7.00 hrs., there was a cracking noise as if someone was breaking into the house. When they got out of the bedroom they found someone was breaking the door. Many people dressed as military personnel asked for Noppakao. They took him away without presenting an arrest warrant. While a relative of Wararat, another arrestee, told that the doorbell was ringing many times. They saw some people climbing over the wall. The intruders told them off, and asked whether Wararat was getting rid of the evidence so that it took her so long to open the door. They took Wararat and the computer away. Later on Nithi, one of the nine arrestees was released, while the other eight were charged under Section 116 of the Criminal Code.
 
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Officers brought in eight suspects of “We love Gen. Prayut” case for their detention before the Military Court on 29 April 2016. Picture: Banrasdr Photo


In the evening, Resistant Citizen activists organized “Wearing white and standing still” protest at the Victory Monument. They demanded the nine arrestees to be released (at that time Nithi was still detained). Then the police arrested sixteen people and took them to Phayathai police station. While being questioned at the station, some military personnel took Burin out of the inquiry room without informing the officers, informing the defendant’s rights and charges. Burin was later charged under Section 112 after being detained at the military camp.      


After being detained at the military camp on 27 April 2016, the eight accused of “We love Gen. Prayut” Facebook page, were taken to be detained at the Military Court. On 29 April 2016, they were charged under Section 116 of the Criminal Code for incitement and the Computer Crime Act. After the permission to detain was granted at noon, Anon Numpa, one of the lawyers, posted on his Facebook that each detainee filed a bail with 100,000 Baht. But the Court did not grant the bails and reasoned that the circumstances were serious and the crime had been carefully organized together.

 

 

Resistant Citizen Activists called for “Standing Still” and demanding Watana and the nine arrestees to be released.
 
After Watana Muangsook was detained overnight at the camp, the Resistant Citizen activists led by Anon Numpa organized “Standing Still” activity demanding Watana to be released. On 19 April the police surrounded the Victory Monument before 18.00 hrs., which was the time when the activists scheduled. Shortly after Anon and other activists turned up, they were taken to Phayathai Police Station before being released with no charges. On 20 April Watana was still detained, the activists held another “Standing Still” protest at Chong Nonsi BTS Station Skywalk. As soon as Sirawit aka “Ja New” read out the statement, he and other five activists were taken to Yannawa Police Station, who was responsible for the area. They were released later without any charges. The police asked them to fill in the daily report. They also asked the activists to sign an agreement, which enforced the activists to inform the police station 24 hours before holding an activity. The Resistant Citizen activists announced to hold another “Standing Still” activity on 21 April at the Skywalk. They informed the police well in advance. But later Watana was released on 21 April, the activity was canceled.           
 
The Resistant Citizen activists organized “Standing Still” activity again in the evening of 27 April 2016 at the Victory Monument. It was a response after nine people had been detained at the military camp earlier in the morning. Anon Numpa, Pansak Panthep and other activists were taken to Phayathai Police Station just a few minutes after they arrived at the Victory Monument. Anon was charged for not informing the police about holding an activity. But no charged were pressed against other fifteen activists. While being questioned, two military personnel in uniform turned up at the police station and took away Burin, one of the activists, without any reason. Burin was charged under Section 112. On 28 April 2016, the Resistant Citizen activists held another “Standing Still” activity again at Chong Nonsi BTS Station Skywalk. Only Sirawit was taken to Yannawa Police Station before being released with no charges.     
 
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On 28 April 2016, Sirawit aka “Ja New” took pictures with supporters at Yannawa Police Station after he was released and freed of charges. The arrest occurred after he organized “Standing Still” activity at Chong Nonsi BTS Station Skywalk, demanding the release of 8 accused of “We love Gen Prayut” case.
 
On 28 April 2016, Sirawit aka “Ja New” took pictures with supporters at Yannawa Police Station after he was released and freed of charges. The arrest occurred after he organized “Standing Still” activity at Chong Nonsi BTS Station Skywalk, demanding the release of 8 accused of “We love Gen Prayut” case.
 

One arrested after Referendum Act now in effect.

On 22 April 2016, the Referendum Act for the 2016 Draft Constitution was announced by the Government Gazette. It listed punishment for offenders. There were for publishing messages, graphic pictures or audio contents on various means of communication, which deemed untrue, severe, aggressive and rude content with an intention to persuade the public to accept or not accept the draft charter. Such action carried a penalty of a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to 200,000 baht or both. 
 
On 26 April 2016, Thailand Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn informed the press that on 27 April he would file a suit against an offender of the Referendum Act. The Committee themselves were the complainers. Somchai did not say who he would file against. Later in that evening Pol Lt Gen Sanit Mahathavorn, Acting Assistant Commission – General, Metropolitan Police, held a press briefing for the arrest of Jiraphan Tanmani, President of the Rathawatanamani Fund for Autism Rights. Pol Lt Gen Sanit informed that Jiraphan posted on her Facebook and the message was severe, aggressive and rude with the intention of persuading the public to not accept the draft.  
 
 
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