By ANAPAT DEECHUAY,
FOURTEEN anti-coup students including seven Dao Din members were arrested late yesterday afternoon after the Military Court issued an arrest warrant against them for allegedly violating an order of the junta and Article 116 of the Criminal Code, which for
The development came as Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said he had evidence that anti-coup student activists were backed by political groups.
A combined force of 30 police and military officers was dispatched to Suan Ngern Mee Ma, an alternative training centre owned by social critic Sulak Sivaraksa, to conduct a search and arrest the students.
At least one – Thammasat student Rangsiman Rome – flashed a three-finger salute in defiance of the military junta.
Human-rights lawyer Anon Nampa, who accompanied those arrested to Phra Ratchawang Police Station, said the group would not seek bail. He said they face the possibility of up to seven years in jail, if convicted of violating Article 116 and the NCPO order banning assemblies of five or more people.
Anon said later that the military court would be open late last night in order to process charges against the students if police finished interrogating them.
Hours before the arrest, Prayut said: “For the students who are acting [against his National Council for Peace and Order] and are linked to politics, I’m telling [you] I have all the evidence and I will press charges.”
The 14 students are part of a merger between Khon Kaen-based Dao Din students and Bangkok-based anti-coup students who call themselves the Neo Democracy Movement (NDM).
Deputy PM General Prawit Wongsuwan and Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr said they had the names of the people supporting NDM and they were actively campaigning against the NCPO and might be invited for a “talk”. The supporters “are the groups who are not satisfied with the government’s work. I think so. But I’d like to say that we still respect them and we might ask to talk to them. We won’t neglect this,” said Udomdej, who would not disclose any names.
Shortly afterwards, NDM held a press conference to refute the accusations. It declared that the only group behind it was the people who supported democracy.
NDM added that over the past two days its members had been fighting with bare feet and bare hands, and had not changed underwear for three days.
“We hardly have any clothes to change in to. We have deteriorating clothes and shoes. That’s all we’ve got,” said an NDM member.
The group said the junta should look back at how coup makers in the past had fared on October 14, 1973, and October 6, 1976, and see how those military officials were ousted.
Udomdej emphasised that parents and teachers should take a good care of their children and students.
Udomdej said he could accept the students’ actions over the past two days. However, he is concerned that the situation could develop into unrest. Prayut, on the other hand, said he was not worried. Many people were also against the students, he claimed.
“When they were at the Democracy Monument, many rolled down [car] windows and cursed them. But if they get hurt, they will blame the officials, saying we neglect them. The parents should take care of their children,” he said.
In response, hours before being arrested, the students said that in civilised countries, freedom of expression was a major premise of education. Thus stopping students from expressing themselves would contradict the fundamental ideology of education.
On Thursday, Amnesty International called for the junta to stop taking action against |people protesting with non-violence and to investigate officials who assaulted them.
NCPO spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvari told The Nation in a phone interview that |the Dao Din movement was not a big deal but more of a symbolic act. He complained that “they have never utilised any channel of communications set up by state authorities”.
Winthai added that the political group tried to use any measure possible to provoke the state. He said the government would have to react carefully in accordance with the context of the situation to avoid Dao Din using the climate to expand their movement. The authorities’ response had been in line with the law.
Every political group and party has been cooperative in participating in activities organised by the Centre for Reconciliation and Reform, Winthai claimed.