Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Power plant protesters released, but face charges amid conflict with govt

Nov 29. 2017
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By Pratch Rujivanarom
The Nation

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ALL 15 activists involved in the protest against the proposed Thepha coal-fired power plant were freed on bail yesterday as Songkhla Provincial Court allowed university scholars to use their civil-service status to guarantee their temporary freedom.

However, the activists will still have to defend themselves in court, as Provincial Police Regional 9 acting commander Pol Lt-General Ronnasin Phusara said yesterday that police had prosecuted them of four charges.

On Monday, the police cracked down on the demonstration against the proposed power plant and arrested 16 leading members of the group as they tried to see Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha to submit an appeal against the project. They said the proposed coal-power plant in Thepha district would damage the local environment and impact on their health.

A juvenile protester received bail on Monday, while the other 15 activists had to be detained in a court cell because they did not have enough money to guarantee their bail.

NGO Coordinating Committee on Development president Banjong Nasae said six scholars from Prince of Songkla University and Thaksin University had asked the court to use their positions as civil servants as a guarantee for releasing them. 

The court at first denied a bail request, citing the regulation that surety had to be offered by relatives of the detained persons.

However, Banjong said the judge reconsidered the request and approved bail for all 15 activists. The money raised through a campaign to cover the bail guarantees will now be spent on litigation expenses.

After being bailed, all arrested activists will have to report to police and attend court if they are summoned.

Ronnasin said police were preparing a case docket to submit to the attorney for filing the lawsuit.

He said officers had filed only charges related to “flagrant offences” allegedly committed by the arrested protesters. These were traffic obstruction; closing a road and exhibiting activities that may damage vehicles; fighting police officers or obstructing police duties; and taking weapons (wooden flag poles) into a public area.

He said that police might issue more arrest warrants against protesters if they can identify other people who were involved in the clash with police officers.

“We are also considering more charges against the protesters for violating the Public Gathering Act, but we have to gather more evidence,” Ronnasin said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsu-wan said the government took no part in the litigation against the protesters and all legal proceeding in this case would follow the law, as it was clear that the protesters were using violence against the police.

“I am not worried that the crackdown on the anti-coal-fired power plant protest and lawsuit against the activists will harm the reputation of the government or violate human rights, because the officers have a duty to keep law and order,” Prawit said.

The deputy PM was also asked about the issue of renewed enforcement of the Internal Security Operations Act in the four districts of Songkhla and one district of Pattani that are in the proposed area for the coal-fired power plant.

He explained that it was just a normal extension of law enforcement in the area, which is affected by the Southern insurgency, and there was no connection with the suppression of protests against the proposed coal-fired power plant.

 

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