On 20 January 2016 around 22.30, Sirawit ‘Ja New’ Seritiwat was apprehended by a group of men in camouflaged uniform who did not identify themselves nor produce the arrest warrant.
According to eyewitnesses, Sirawit was returning from having dinner outside Thammasat University Rangsit Campus with his two friends. At Chiang Rak 1 gate, two vehicles with no license plates, a silver 7-seated Isuzu MU7 and a silver double-cab Toyota pickup truck pulled over in front of Sirawit.
Four of at least eight men in camouflaged uniform with schematic masks charged in at Sirawit, attempting to grab him without identifying themselves or producing the arrest warrant.
Sirawit resisted, arguing that the individuals had no right to deprive him of his liberty. However the men overpowered Sirawit and forcefully put him into thepickup truck. No one had any idea who the men are or where Sirawit was held in custody.
At 00.05 of 21 January 2016, Matichon Online reported that Col.Burin Thongprapai of the NCPO’s Judge Advocate General’s Office insisted that he had no information about the nabbing of Mr. Sirawit Seritiwat and said he would inquire where the news had come from. Should there be any apprehension as such, the person should be handed over to the police who has applied for the arrest warrant. However the police in charge of the case were also not aware of this incidence.
At 01.10, TLHR was informed that Sirawit was taken to the Nimit Mai Police Station and would then be transferred to the Thonburi Railway Police Station in the morning.
At 02.50, the police confirmed the report that Mr. Sirawit Seritiwat was deprived of liberty at the Nimit Mai Police Station. Nevertheless, police forces were deployed to deny access to the second floor of the building and even his mother and the attorney were denied access to Sirawit.
At 03.30, the police officers at the Nimit Mai Police Station and the military officers have started to bring Sirawit over to Thonburi Railway Police Station.
At 04.20, the police officers of Nimit Mai Police Station arrived at the Thonburi Railway Police Station to hand over Sirawit to the inquiry officials at Thonburi Railway Police Station in charge of the case and where he was to acknowledge the charges.
Sirawit recounted that, while being held in custody with the military, he was blindfolded and taken to a bush by the road. He was forced to crouch as the men were kicking and booting him and asking why he did not initiate any probe on the rice pledging scheme. Vulgar language and foul words were hurled at him. The group of men even held up a gun-like object at his head and made some cracking noise like pulling a trigger. He could not exactly remember the time then.
Sirawit recalled further that after that, he was driven to the Nimit Mai Police Station around 01.00 am. According to the arresting police officials, he was handed over while being blindfolded. The police officers only removed the eye-mask from Sirawit after the group of men had gone.
Nevertheless, according to the arrest record written by the police, the police were asked by the officers from the 2nd Infantry Battalion, the 2nd Infantry Regiment, the King’s Guard, Chakkapong Military Camp to retrieve Sirawit.
In this case, Sirawit was accused of participating in a political gathering of five people and upward which is a breach of the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2015 as a result of his joining the train ride to highlight the corruption probe of the construction of the Rajabhakti Park Project on 7 December 2015.
Around 07.40, Pol.Capt. Watthawat Yotkham and Pol.Lt. Saengphet Siribun, inquiry officials in charge of the case, arrived at the police station and started the inquiry of Sirawit. He was informed of the charge concerning the violation of the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2015 which bans a political gathering of five people and upward with regard to his organizing the train ride to “shed light on fraud at the Rajabhakti Park” on 7 December 2015. The case was reported to the police by Col.Burin Thongprapai of the NCPO’s Judge Advocate General’s Office
Sirawit denied all charges and promised to submit the inquiry officer more evidence regarding the apprehension executed by military officers and his own testimony in this case.
During the inquiry of Sirawit, members of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) including Ms. Chonticha Jaeng-rew, Ms. Chanoknan Ruamsap and Mr. Korakoch Saengyenpan came to show their solidarity with him at the police station. The three of them are also wanted in the same case with Mr. Sirawit, though they had earlier insisted on not turning themselves in to the police.
At 9.00 the police officers of Thonburi Railway Police Station have arrived and produced the arrest warrants against the three of them, then brought them into an interrogation room to inform the charges and to conduct the inquiry. It was very likely that all the alleged offenders would then be brought to the Military Court to hear the order for their remand in custody.
An observer reported that, in the morning, a military vehicle pulled over in the back of the Thonburi Railway Police Station with four military officers and an unknown number of plainclothes officers. They were monitoring the situation at the police station.
At 9.50 a military official named Adisak Petchthai, one of the arresting officers in the event on 7 December 2015, entered the interrogation room and took photos of the alleged offenders. Chanoknan recalled that on 7 December 2015, Adisak introduced himself as a police officer.
At 11.00 Chonticha, Chanoknan, and Korakoch refused to sign on the arrest record, but Sirawit had formerly signed on his. The police were due to take them to the military court afterward. The four denied all charges and refused to accept the process, announced they will fight on the case and will not bail. Sirawit also testified against the officials who threatened and abused him.
At 13.20 Doctor from Sirirat hospital finished basic health check on Sirawit. He and other three activists were taken to Bangkok Military Court.
At 14.30 TLHR’s lawyers filed a motion against the remand order of the four activists. Meanwhile outside the Military Court, crowd barriers are set to keep the press and other people out. Some people came to show solidarity with the activists.
At 15.57 Bangkok Military Court dismissed the inquiry official’s request to remand Sirawit, Chonticha, Chanoknan, and Korakoch. The reason given was that the primary evidence had been inquired, and the inquiry does not need to remand the alleged offenders. The four shall be released soon after.
Nevertheless, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) deems that the apprehension of Mr. Sirawit in the middle of the night on 20 January 2016 was an arbitrary and unlawful arrest since the arresting persons had failed to identify themselves, failed to mention the power and reasons invoked for the apprehension, and the place of detention was then not announced, which violates Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In addition, it had placed Mr. Sirawit outside of the protection of law during such secret detention which could amount to an act of enforced disappearance that violates Thailand’s international obligations under ICCPR and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
At 16.09 Abhisit “Nui” Sabnapapan, another NDM activist who had been issued an arrest warrant of the same activity and charge, was arrested at the entrance of Bangkok Military Court. The police took him to Thonburi Railway police station to inform the charge, and hold him under custody there to seek a remand warrant from Bangkok Military Court tomorrow. It is reported that if the court dismissed the request for remand warrant, Abhisit will be taken to Pathumwan police station for another charge.
To summarize the current status of six arrest warrant concerning the Rajabhakti trip; Thanet has fled the country, Sirawit, Chonticha, Chanoknan, and Korakoch were arrested and taken to military court but their charges are not dropped, and Abhisit has just been arrested and captured.