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17 human rights defenders summoned for interrogation after signing statement against martial law


FIDH statement

11 November 2014

Thailand: Seventeen human rights defenders summoned for interrogation after signing statement against martial law

On 4 November 2014, seventeen human rights defenders received a summons from the local military authorities and the homes of some defenders were raided by armed military officials and the police. It is believed that this was due to a joint statement signed by the human rights defenders denouncing the legitimacy of the military government.

On 3 November 2014 twelve civil society organisations, including Human Rights and Peace Information Centre (Isan) and Legal Centre for Human Rights, and seventeen human rights defenders, Mr Chakraphong Thonworaphong, Mr Suwit Kulapwong, Mr Lerdsak Khamkhongsak, Mr Sirisak Saduak, Mr Panya Khamlap, Mr Decha Khambaomuang, Mr Nattaphong Rachamee, Mr NaTrin Cha-onsri, Mr Paitoon Soisod, Mr Sawang Noikham, Ms Chonthicha Tangwornmongkhol, Mr Withuwat Thongbu, Ms Nattaporn Ajhan, Mr Adisak Tum-on, Mr Nitikorn Khamchu and Mr Yongyut Dongpratha, issued a joint statement declaring their opposition to the reform process initiated by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

According to the human rights defenders, they do not accept the seizure of power by the military during the coup on 22 May 2014, and they do not recognise the authority of NCPO. Therefore, the human rights defenders stated that they are not able to cooperate with any mechanisms or officials appointed by the coup authorities, including cabinet ministers, the National Legislative Assembly, and the National Reform Council. As declared in the statement, all these mechanisms are weakening civil society, making it impossible to hold the state accountable for their policies, laws or any development projects since the coup.

On 4 November 2014, the Second Thai Army summoned the human rights defenders for interrogation. On 7 November, at least seven of these human rights defenders from the North-East of Thailand were present at the military base for interrogation. Many were summoned over the phone and complied with the Army’s demand that they present themselves for interrogation. However, in some cases soldiers and state officials were sent to the homes of the human rights defenders to bring them to the military camps. On 4 November 2014, human rights defender Yongyuth Dongpratha was captured by armed military personnel at his home and briefly detained at a military camp. The military authorities questioned the human rights defenders about their reasons for issuing the statement. Prior to being released, they were forced to sign a document obliging them to discontinue any anti-coup activities and to present themselves immediately if summoned by the military again. By signing the document, the human rights defenders also stated that they are aware that they will be prosecuted under martial law if they continue their activism against the military authorities. Reportedly, some of the defenders were also forced to post publicly on Facebook that they were treated well during their brief detention, that they had not intended to sign the anti-coup statement, that their names appeared in error, and that they would fully cooperate with the reforms of the NCPO.

Front Line Defenders is concerned about the growing pressure on human rights defenders from military authorities and the ongoing restrictions imposed on freedom of speech and expression which contradicts Thailand’s international human rights obligations.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Thailand to:

1. Immediately cease all further harassment and interrogation of the human rights defenders as Front Line Defenders believes that they were summoned solely as a result of their human rights activism;
2. Immediately and unconditionally nullify the human rights defenders’ signed obligation to discontinue their activism as it is believed that they were interrogated and forced to accept this obligation solely due to their peaceful and legitimate human rights work;
3. Ensure that the freedom of expression is protected, and in no way restricted, in accordance with international human rights standards;
4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Thailand are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.