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Academic network calls on junta to drop charges against activists, accuses them of ‘abuse of power’

Feb 08. 2018
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By Wasamon Audjarint
The Nation

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The Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights on Thursday called for the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to immediately drop charges against activists accused of calling on the junta to allow for more public participation.

The network said those charged included members of MBK 39, a group of 39 activists, students and journalists who gathered on January 27 to urge the NCPO to move ahead with the long-delayed election.

Fourteen activists in the northern province of Phayao were also charged as they joined the “We Walk” rally project, which has called for more public participation in decision-making process involving local communities.

“We call for the NCPO to stop creating an atmosphere of fear against participants of pro-democracy activities by using legal measures or other threatening means,” said the statement from the network, which was read by Bencharat Saechua, a lecturer at Mahidol University’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies.

Members of the academic network also turned up to observe as MBK 39 members reported to the Pathumwan police station in Bangkok. They had been summoned to acknowledge the charge of allegedly breaking the junta’s ban against political gathering and the public assembly bill.

Nine of the 39 activists are also charged with alleged sedition under the Criminal Code’s Article 116.

“We view that pressing these charge are an abuse of power by the NCPO, which is using national security as an excuse to eliminate political expression, calls for democracy and participation in policy making,” Bencharat said. “This also curbs people’s fundamental rights to peacefully assemble.”

The group also collected donations to help post bail for the activists. They are also seeking academics to be bailsmen as “no one should be detained simply because they expressed political opinions”.

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