Wednesday, November 13, 2019

New charges filed over Thepa coal-fired power plant protest

Jan 04. 2018
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By Pratch Rujivanarom
The Nation

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Prominent activists opposing the Thepa coal-fired power plant heard a new charge of violating the Public Gathering Act on Wednesday, while police implicated a 17th activist in the same case.

All 16 activists detained during a march against the power plant in Songkhla last November presented themselves at Songkhla Provincial Court on Wednesday morning in response to a summons, before they went to Muang Songkhla Provincial Police Station to hear another charge of arranging an illegal public gathering.

Police also filed a complaint against Mustarsheedeen Waba, another prominent protester, on similar charges, bringing the number of offenders in the case to 17.

All 17 defendants have been charged with blocking traffic, marching on a public highway, fighting with police, carrying weapons in public and staging illegal demonstration. The “weapons” in question were poles used to carry signs and banners.

The defendants' lawyer, Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, said police had not clearly stated the jurisdiction of the new charge of staging an illegal demonstration, so it was possible the defendants could be charged not only under the Public Gathering Act, but also the Criminal Code.

According to Article 215 of the Criminal Code, people who gather in groups of more than 10 to create social disorder are subject to a punishment of six months in jail, a Bt1,000 fine or both. If combined with weapon charges, punishment could be increased to two years' imprisonment, a Bt4,000 fine or both.

Sor Rattanamanee said the defendants would respond to the allegations against them in court next week, as police were expected to finish preparing the case and submit it to the court by next Monday.

Several groups of academics and activists on Wednesday showed up in front of Muang Songkhla Provincial Police Station in support of the arrested activists and read statements urging authorities to stop the prosecution of community rights defenders and ensure freedom of expression.

They also highlighted that people had the rights to speak to the government about their problems and to defend the environment and their livelihoods.

On the same day, Akradej Chakjinda, a leading protester against the Krabi power plant, received a summons from Bang Kruai police related to a complaint of defamation filed by a representative of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat).

The summons stated that Akradej had defamed Egat in an advertisement and he was to report to Bang Kruai Police Station in Nonthaburi next Thursday.

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