The “Democracy Study” group announced an activity “Train Trip to Rajabhakti, shine light in searching for the corrupted”, calling for an investigation of corruption in the construction of Rajabhakti Park. The activists were to meet at Thonburi station at 7 am on 7 December 2015 then travel by train to Rajabhakti Park in Hua Hin, Prajuab Kirikhan. They were stopped at Baan Pong station, Ratchaburi, and 36 people were arrested. They were taken to a temporary military unit in Putthamonthon Buddhist Park, Nakhon Prathom. The officers recorded their information and, before release on that day, forced them to sign an MOU to not joining political movement again and not leaving the country without permission. 11 people refused to accept the MOU, leading to them being accused of violating the political gathering ban according to the Head of the NCPO’s Order No. 3/2015.
The 11 activists included Mr. Sirawit Seritiwat, Mr. Anon Nampha, Ms. Chonthicha Jaeung-Rew, Ms. Chanoknan Ruamsap, Mr. Thanet Anantawong, Mr. Kititituch Suman, Mr. Wisarut Anukulkanm, Mr, Abhisit Sapnaphapan, Mr. Korakot Saengyenpan, Ms. Kornkanok Khumta, and Mr. Vichit Hanhaboon.
The Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015, Article 12 paragraph one states that any political gathering of five or more persons shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding ten thousand Baht, or both, unless permission has been granted by the Head of the NCPO. or an authorized representative.
Arrest and detention
On 7 December 2015: 36 people including student activists were arrested by military during their train ride from Bangkok to Hua Hin, Prachuab Kirikhan province. The planned trip was organised to campaign for investigation into alleged corruptions in the military-run construction of the Rajabhakti Park, called “the Train Ride to Shed Light on Fraud at the Rajabhakti Park”. They were taken from Ratchaburi province to be detained in military custody at the 9th Infantry Regiment Command which was operating in the area of the Office of the Bureau of Buddhism, Buddha Monthon, Nakhon Pathom province.
All 36 were released the same night, some of which had to sign a document agreeing not to get involved in any political activists again.
Summons for charges
On 18 December 2015, Miss Chanoknan Ruamsap, one of the student activists received a police summons to report for charges of violating the Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015 (ban of political gathering of five or more persons) on 22 December. It appears that the summons were issued against 11 individuals who participated in the train ride activity and refused to sign a condition document of release.
On 21 December 2015, all 11 activists submitted a letter to police, requesting to postpone the date of reporting from 22 December to 9 January 2016. The group explained the reasons for postponement that only some of the accused received the summons which were delivered to their residences and all of then were aware of the reporting date as summoned only on 20 December 2015. Therefore, 22 December was too short notice for all 11 activists to prepare for reporting and consulting with their lawyers.
Risk of arrest
On 22 December 2015, the inquiry officer at the Thonburi police station said that the request to postpone the reporting day to 9 January 2016 was not approved, stating the reason that if they postponed the date, it would be too long. The police instead issued the second summons to report on 29 December 2015, and warned that if the summoned 11 activists do not report in, the police officers will seek an issuance of arrest warrants against them from a military court which will be ready for an execution of the warrants.
The activists will submit another request to postpone the reporting date from 29 December 2015 to January 2016. If the police does not allow and the activists fail to report, potential arrests will be executed for bringing an accused for pressing charges and put in a pre-trial detention.
Arrest and charges against one of the 11 summoned activists
On 13 December 2015, Mr. Thanet Anantawong, one of the 11 accused, was arrested from a hospital by plainclothes. He was detained in an unknown military unit for 6 days until 18 December 2015. He was transferred to police and was charged with sedition according to article 116, and article 14 of Computer Crime Act. The Bangkok Military Court issued a 12 day of pre-trial detention order but granted bail with 100,000 Baht bond. Thanet was released from the temporary remand facility in 11th Military Circle on the same day.
Incident on 7 December 2015
The “Democracy Study” group announced an activity “Train Trip to Rajabhakti, shine light in searching for the corrupted”, calling for an investigation of corruption in the construction of Rajabhakti Park. The activists were to meet at Thonburi station at 7 am on 7 December 2015 then travel by train to Rajabhakti Park in Hua Hin, Prajuab Kirikhan.
Mr. Chatmongkhol Walli(ฺblack t-shirt), Mr. Thanet Anantawong(jean jacket) and Mr. Sirawith Seritiwat(right) by Banrsdr Photo.
One day before the activity, the military had visited the house of one of the organizers and asked him for a meeting. The activity was organized by student activists from the “Democracy Study Group” affiliated to the New Democracy Movement (NDM) whose members were detained in late June 2015 for peacefully protesting against the military junta.
In the morning of 7 December around 7.25 am, Mr. Sirawith arrived at the Bangkok Noi train station with a group of students to participate in the activity. Mr. Sirawith said that he arrived late as the train in which he took was interrupted and he had to get off the train to take a taxi there.
Then he started the trip and approximately 70 participants hopped on the train ride from the Bangkok Noi train station without any intervention from the authorities. At every stop, TLHR’s staff could see about four or five police officials at the station. Meanwhile, it was reported that the military police had already closed the entrance of the Rajabhakti Park.
Around 9.30, the military ordered the train to stop at Ban Pong train station in Ratchaburi province and the train carriage in which the activists rode was separated from rest of the train. While the train moved on to the destination, the 36 activists including Mr. Sirawith and two staff members of TLHR were rounded up by the military. More than a hundred officials from various units were securing the train station. Some military buses were pulled over while the labels on the sides of the buses indicating the units were concealed.
by Banrsdr Photo.
Around 11.00, the activists were divided into two groups by authorities, 16 and 19 people, respectively. All were taken to detention at the 9th Infantry Regiment Command which was operating in the area of the Office of the Bureau of Buddhism, Buddha Monthon, Nakhon Pathom province. Around 15.47, attorneys from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) arrived at the detention facility, but were denied access to the detainees. The first group of detainees, 17 of mostly ordinary people, were released around 17.40 and the second group of 19 of students and activists, were released around 20.35. They were all asked to sign a document to agree not to get involved in any political activities again, otherwise, they would not be released. Also, all the t-shirts printed with the message “University is not Military Camp” were all seized. Nevertheless, six of them refused to sign the release document.
- Harassment of Mr. Sirawith Seritiwat, organizer of the the “train ride to shed light on fraud at the Rajabhakti Park”.
Prior to the commencement of the “train ride to shed light on fraud at the Rajabhakti Park”, Mr. Sirawith Seritiwat posted to announce the activity on his personal Facebook on 4 December 2015. As a result, military officers from the 2nd Infantry Battalion, the 2nd Infantry Regiment, King’s Guard, in charge of Klong Sam Wa district where Mr. Sirawith lives, had tried to track him down. They both called him and went to see him at his home. They threatened him verbally and stalked him all the time during 5 December 2015. But as Mr. Sirawith refused to go and meet the military, they instead shifted to put pressure on his mother, Ms. Patnaree Chankit, by asking her to get him to report himself to the military.
by Fahroong Srikhao.
On 6 December around 12.00, Mr. Sirawith’s mother decided to go to the military post which is located in Wat Sutthi Sa-ard temple, Klong Sam Wa district in Minburi province. At the public relations and public service unit of the 2nd Infantry Battalion, the 2nd Infantry Regiment, King’s Guard, the military explained that the train ride activity appeared to be a political activity, though the destination of the ride was outside the area under the charge of the military unit in Klong Sam Wa. Thus, other military units would be dispatched there. Their actions would be subject to the discretion of the officials in charge of the area. During the meeting, an attorney from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) and media were present. But the media were not allowed to listen when the meeting took place.
After the 36 activists were released, on 8 December 2015, Mr. Sirawith had a press conference about the detention on 7 December 2015. The press conference was to take place at the sculpture lawn by the Main Hall of Thammasat University Tha Prachan Campus in Bangkok. But prior to its commencement at 13.45, 15 plain-cloth police officers stood in a row to block the media in front of the Main Hall preventing them from getting into the press conference area. They claimed that the organizers added more issues to the press conference and no permission had been sought from the university to use the area. Negotiations took place between the police and the organizers, until the reporters were allowed to interview Mr. Sirawith at the sculpture lawn, but no official press conference was allowed. After about 20 minutes of the interview, the police told Mr. Sirawith to stop and announced to the media through a megaphone that it should stop there. Thus, some media had stopped the interview, while others continued to interview and take photo. There was no arrest on that day.
- Harassment of one of the 36 activists who were detained en route to the Rajabhakti Park
On 11 December 2015, some military officers from unidentified units went to the residence of “Por NDM”, one of the 36 activists who were detained en route to the Rajabhakti Park, but could not find him as only his grandfather was at home. The military officer talked with Por’s grandfather who lived at the house where Por has his name registered as a resident, and belongs to Por’s uncle who works for the Department of Corrections in Nonthaburi. The officers asked Por to be removed from the house, otherwise it would affect his uncle’s career. As a result, Por decided to move out.
Por has participated in various activities with the NDM student activists group. He was one among several student activists arrested during the demonstration on the first anniversary of the coup on 22 May 2015 in front of the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre. Recently, he was detained together with Mr. Sirawith during the “train ride to shed light on fraud at the Rajabhakti Park” on 7 December 2015. Por assumed that the officials obtained information about his residence from his ID card that he had to produce to the officials during previous detentions.
- Harassment of Mr. Chatmongkhol Walli, one of the 36 activists who were detained en route to the Rajabhakti Park
On 10 December 2015 at 09.30, three military and one police officers in uniform went to the house of Mr. Chatmongkhol Walli, a political activist who joined the “train ride to shed light on fraud at the Rajabhakti Park”. He was arrested and taken from his house. The officers told Ms. Suppalak Amnajkasem, his mother, that he would be taken for a talk and would be brought back after a while. His mother came to look for him at a nearby military unit and then at the Bang Mod Police Station, but could not find him. The officials denied that they had taken Mr. Chatmongkhol.
After his release on the same day, Mr. Chatmongkhol revealed that he had, in fact, been summoned to meet with the military at a temporary military post in Bang Mod district, Bangkok, prior to his participation in the train ride on 7 December 2015. Then, he was told to report himself again and not to participate in any political activity. But he had participated in the train ride and failed to report himself as requested. Thus, this time, the military came to meet and take him for a dinner. They even produced his military draft notice that he had failed to attend and told him to stop getting involved in any political activity, otherwise next time, they would come and “grab” him away and make him a military man. Prior to his release, he was asked to sign a document to agree not to get involved in any political activity again. He had to sign the paper as he feared of being drafted as a military conscript. He is responsible for taking care of his father who has had kidney operation and had one of his kidneys removed. The military brought him home around 14.28.