By The Nation
James Gomez, Amnesty International’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said Thailand’s military rulers were not only continuing to tie up hundreds of real or perceived critics with long-running criminal proceedings, but had escalated a crackdown on peaceful dissent in recent months.
“Authorities must honour their promise to lift the absurd and unjustifiable restrictions they have now been imposing for almost four years, ostensibly in the name of national security,” said Gomez in a statement released today.
Meanwhile, the Appeal Court today postponed delivering its verdict for the third time in the case of law student and Amnesty International Thailand board member Apichart Pongsawat, who faces a potential six months in prison and a fine for violating the junta’s blanket ban on “political” gatherings of five or more people.
Apichart was arrested on May 23, 2014 – the day after the military coup d’état – for holding a sign in central Bangkok that read: “I will not accept barbaric power.”
The court postponed its verdict to May 31, due to “complications” in the case, according to Apichart, who went to hear the verdict this morning.
In December 2016, Pathumwan District Court of Bangkok’s Court of First Instance sentenced Apichart to two months in prison with the jail term suspended for one year.
Meanwhile, eight social activists under the “People Go Network” will report to police in Pathum Thani province today to learn whether they will be charged under the ban on protests. The eight took part in a peaceful march that began in Bangkok on January 18 in support of a range of economic, social and civil rights.
“Apichart has become a symbol of peaceful resistance against military rule,” Gomez said. “He and others charged for peaceful protest have done nothing wrong and all criminal proceedings against them should be dropped immediately and convictions expunged.”
On Tuesday, authorities announced that they would file charges of sedition – under a law allowing for a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment – and unlawful assembly on activists and a human rights lawyer. They had all protested the military government’s likely postponement of general elections from November this year to February 2019.
“The Thai military has made repeated promises to respect human rights and allow peaceful criticism since seizing power, but has completely failed to turn these into reality,” Gomez said.
“The international community must push the authorities to ensure that there is concrete action to end these long-running violations.”