Lawsuit filed by activists against Thai junta begins

Activists commemorating the 2014 coup d'état on 22 May 2015 (file photo)

The Civil Court has commenced a trial initiated by democracy activists against the junta leader, the Army and the Royal Thai Police (RTP). The activists accuse authorities of violating their rights during a crackdown on a gathering to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état.

On 18 July 2017, the Civil Court held the first plaintiff witness hearing in a case filed by 13 youth activists, most of whom are former members of the New Democracy Movement.

The group accused the authorities of malfeasance and abuse of human rights in arresting and abusing NDM activists and other demonstrators who on 22 May 2015 participated in a peaceful gathering to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état.

They are demanding 16.5 million baht in compensation from the three public agencies.

At court, seven plaintiffs testified that they merely gathered peacefully to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état by standing for 15 minutes in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. Yet they were later arrested and in many cases physically assaulted by security officers both in uniform and in plainclothes.

One of the seven, Chanoknan Ruamsap, said that her legs were bloodied after being dragged by officers during the arrest. The activists were also detained at Pathumwan Police Station for about 10 hours without being informed of the charges against them.

Napat Narangsiya, another activist, noted that the Order of the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) No. 3/2015 — the junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons — was in force at the time. But he argued that the 2014 Interim Constitution, as the highest law of the country, gave them the right to participate in such a gathering.

The court will hold plaintiff hearings until 25 July. From 26 July to 2 August the accused will be called to testify, which includes Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader himself, Gen Kampanat Ruddit, a member of the Privy Council, Maj Gen Wicharn Jodtaeng, the chief of legal affairs of the NCPO, and police officers from Pathumwan Police Station. – Prachatai

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