THE GOVERNMENT yesterday hit back at the US State Department over its criticism of the controversial arrest of student activist Sirawit Serithiwat on Wednesday night.
Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the State Department should have carefully considered the facts of the matter. He said Sirawit had repeatedly violated the law and intentionally provoked the auth orities for political results.
As Sirawit had broken many laws, the authorities had no choice but to strictly enforce the law and arrest him, he explained.
“Arrest must be made whenever the suspect is found, regardless of the time. This is the standard practice,” he said.
The government spokesman warned that such a move by the US agency could adversely affect bilateral ties.
“What will your country do when security law offenders claim they have the freedom to violate the law?” Sansern said. “We don’t want this move, intentional or not, to affect the ties between the two countries that have existed for a long time.” Sirawit, better known as Ja (Sergeant) New, was apprehended by eight military officers late at night at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus in Pathum Thani. He was charged with being involved in an illegal political gathering.
US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner expressed concern over restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms in Thailand after Ja New’s arrest.
“I’ll just say we remain concerned by continued limitations on human rights and fundamental freedoms in Thailand, including undue restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. We would urge the Thai government to ensure full respect for freedom of expression and other human rights and fundamental freedoms,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan maintained that the arrest of Ja New was in accordance with international practice.
However, Angkhana Neelapaijit, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, said that it was improper for officials to arrive in an unmarked vehicle and make the arrest at night.
She noted that Ja New had shown no intention to escape and therefore he should not have been arrested in a way that looked like he was abducted.
Meanwhile, the Bangkok Military Court yesterday rejected a police request for the detention of a fifth student activist, Apisit Sapnapapan, who was also |wanted for the same charge as Ja New.
The court on Thursday had made the same judgement when police sought to detain Ja New and three other student activists who were also charged with being involved in an illegal political gathering.
In a related development, the United Nations called on Thai authorities yesterday to drop all charges against student activists arrested for violating a ban on political gatherings, DPA reported. “The right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression and opinion are fundamental rights and should never be regarded as a serious criminal offence,” the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights said.