Police to push ahead with questioning as lawyers complain about lack of access
POLICE investigators will today resume their interrogation of the 14 detained student activists after some of them refused to cooperate on Friday because they weren’t prepared and they considered the interrogation room to be in a poor condition.
Officers from Samranrat Police station had made an appointment with lawyers to interrogate the New Democracy Movement students on Friday.
They sought permission to use a meeting room at the Bangkok Remand Prison but failed to get it.
One of the students, Rangsiman Rom, refused to be interrogated because he was not prepared due to the short notice the police had given him, Prachatai website reported.
He said his fellow students were being housed separately and they could not consult with each other. The interrogation was not carried out in accordance with the code of criminal procedures, he said, as it was arranged in a place where his lawyer could not listen to the conversation between him and the police.
The other students also refused the interrogation on the same grounds.
The students’ lawyers said the interrogation room was very small and had metal bars separating them from their clients. They were told to communicate through telephones. The room was packed with 20 other people and they could not communicate effectively.
The students were brought out of their cells at 2.30pm and the prison closed the telephone signal since it was almost closing time at 3pm.
“The Military Court can operate at 1pm, why can’t they open a proper room that gives us privacy,’’ one student asked.
Chonthicha Chaengrew, who is seeking hospital treatment for numbness and pain on her left side, gave a statement to the police in which she denied all the charges. She claimed that what she did was an honest duty guaranteed by international agreements Thailand had signed with the United Nations.
She said the government was not legitimate because it staged a coup against an elected government.
Meanwhile, a group of 78 lawyers and human rights activists issued a statement calling on the government to drop the charges against the 14 students and release them unconditionally, saying they had not committed criminal offences as alleged.
The students wanted the government to tackle the problems faced by the people in order to bring about sustainable security. They expressed their views without violence and their action was not deemed a threat to national security.
They were regarded as political prisoners under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty Thailand has signed. Article 4 of the interim charter also guarantees the students’ rights.
Taking legal action against the students was unjust and showed that the government had twisted the law to suppress those who had different views, the statement said.
The group also called on the government to stop pressuring the families of the students in a manner deemed intimidating and depriving them of their rights and liberty. They also urged the government to stop discrediting the students and disseminating messages that brought about public hatred on the students, since this would lead to more conflict.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has urged teachers to teach their students in the right way.
“They should take into account roles and responsibilities – not just rights and liberty,’’ he said.
Responding to calls for the unconditional release of the 14 pro-democracy students, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said the students were arrested on charges of violating Article 116 of the Criminal Code and for violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s order number 3 for staging anti-coup protests.
“They were not fighting for any local people to help them solve problems. We needed to enforce the law to end political conflict. We must put our democracy on hold because their system has proven to be a failed system to manage the country. The NCPO did not come into power through democratic means but we are not dictators,’’ Paiboon said. “People should [consider whether] the NCPO should continue running the country or not. If that is the case, I would quit immediately and let you manage the country,’’ he said.
The minister said the NCPO had offered support and compromise by allowing the students to get bail for temporary release through the Justice Fund. But none of the students’ parents had agreed to sign the agreement.
“What can I do? I have to adopt the same standards for everyone. You have to review your stance,’’ he said.
Suriyasai Katasila, dean of the College of Social Innovation, urged the government to differentiate protesters between the anti-coup group and those who campaigned to help people affected by government policies or projects. “Applying the same legal action against protesters with different objectives will not solve the problems but will intensify them,’’ he said.