By ANAPAT DEEECHUAY,
PRAYUT STANDS FIRM ON JAILING OF STUDENTS IN WAKE OF CRITICISM FROM EU, UN
PRIME Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha stood firm in the face of growing condemnation from the European Union (EU) delegation in Bangkok and the regional United Nations (UN) rights body of the detention of 14 anti-coup students.
“The law is the law…” Prayut said, referring to the students who were arrested on Friday for allegedly committing sedition and disobeying the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s ban on political gatherings of five or more people.
“If there is a law and it’s applied against one but not applied against others, will more people come out [to the street to protests]?” Prayut asked.
Thailand is Thailand, the premier said, adding that the students should understand the conditions Thailand is under today. He insisted that many more students welcome him wherever he visits.
The EU delegation to Bangkok issued a statement yesterday urging Thailand to consider its international human rights obligations.
“The EU believes in the right of all to express peacefully their opinions and calls upon the Thai authorities to abide by Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and fundamental freedoms must be upheld, and military courts should not be used to try civilians.”
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Southeast Asia also issued a statement urging the government to promptly drop criminal charges against the students and review laws that limit freedom of expression and freedom of assembly to be in line with its obligations under international human rights law.
Academics from leading universities representing the “network of concerned lecturers” protested in front of the Bangkok Remand Prison yesterday.
They read a statement demanding the immediate release of all the students arrested. “As teachers who are conscious of our duties to students and society, we see that the detention of the 14 students for violating the coup leader’s orders is illegitimate. The coup lacks legitimacy in the first place. Hence, we demand that [the authorities] release them immediately without any condition and there should not be any charge pressed against them in relation to the movement,” said the statement.
The group added that students rallying for democracy is part of a learning |process that is not limited to in-class activities.
“These students are not neglecting their duty as accused,” the statement continued. The group’s representatives said they would continue to promote the learning process of democracy outside the classroom using different methods until Thai society become truly democratized.
Anuson Unno, an anthropologist from Thammasat University, said the network would set up a “Public Classroom” featuring the five principles – democracy, human rights, people’s participation, justice and non-violence – promoted by the Neo Democracy Movement (NDM), of which the 14 detainees are members.
The group gathered 280 signatures of like-minded lecturers, such as Thammasat political scientists Prajak Kongkirati and Pongkwan Sawasdipak, who showed up at the prison.
They said at least ten lecturers would visit the detained students at the remand prison every day to provide them with moral support. Ausorn said he had talked to the detainees about what the lecturers were doing and he saw smiles lighting up their faces.
“I told them about the statement and the activities we’re going to do. I told them about how we had 280 lecturers across the country endorsing the statement in one day,” he said.
“They had sparkles in their eyes. They said, ‘That’s a lot’.”
In a related development, Thai students in the US state of Wisconsin launched a Facebook campaign with #FreeThai14 hashtag to show their solidarity with the students.