Ms Sirikan Charoensiri, as known as June,  a human rights lawyer, works for Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) as a legal and documentation specialist. On 22 october 2016, Sirikan reported to the police at the Bangkok’s Samranrat Municipality Police Station to be informed of the charges. The inquiry officer, Lt Col Manit Thongkhao, stated that Sirikan was charged for being an accomplice in the coup commemoration organised by New Democracy Movement (NDM) at the Democracy Monument on 25 June 2015. Her alleged acts were carrying the activists’ belongings, and not letting the officials search her. This breaches Article 116 of Thai Criminal Code, or sedition offence, and the Order of the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) no. 3/2015 Section 12, which prohibits gatherings of five or more persons for political purposes. The accuser is Lt Col Pongsarit Pawangkanan, who also accused Mr Rangsiman Rome and others, including other human rights defenders, remarks the connections of this case to the prosecution against then-jailed fourteen student activists of the New Democracy Movement (NDM). Sirikan denied all charges against her, and stated that she was present to offer legal service to the her clients, the NDM activists. Further statements can be submitted within 22 November 2016.

International community presence and support for lawyer Sirikan
International community presence and support for lawyer Sirikan

The notifications of charges provide details which accused Sirikan associating with her fourteen student activist clients in the incident commemorating the coup on 25-26 June 2015. Following the apprehension of Rangsiman and others on 26 June 2015, the inquiry officer, granted with the court permission, took fourteen student activists into the Bangkok Military Court’s custody. According to Lt Col Pongsarit, the accuser, around 10 pm, he noticed that Sirikan was carrying a plastic bag and a brown envelope while rushing to a CRV car, which was revealed later as her car, with haste. Further, when a photo of Sirikan was brought to a military inquiry officer for investigation, Lt Col Pongsarit found that Sirikan had allegedly been involved with NDM actions all along. In addition, on 27 June 2015, Sirikan refused to let the competent officials search her car, where later found 5 cellphones of NDM activists. Lt Col Pongsarit stated that the alleged actions of Sirikan’s provide reasonable grounds to believe that she was associated with the illegal acts of Rangsiman and others. Thus, Sirikan is charged of sedition and political assembly offences, same as Rangsiman and others. Sirikan informed the inquiry officer that she was present at the Bangkok Military Court due to her legal service to her clients, the NDM activists. She stated that she would submit additional statement in written later and was allowed to do so within 22 November 2016. (Read more)

Ms Sirikan Charoensiri and Lt Col Manit Thongkhao at the Samranrat Police Station in Bangkok
Ms Sirikan Charoensiri and Lt Col Manit Thongkhao at the Samranrat Police Station in Bangkok

On 24-25 June 2015, Sirikan and other TLHR lawyers and documentation officers were present to observe and monitor the activity of the fourteen students in Bangkok. All officers clearly addressed themselves with the authorities as TLHR staffs, and stated their purpose of being present to monitor the event since there were reasonable concerns that the student activists might have been arrested and accused of violating the law. The police had later arrested the 14 students on 26 June 2015 as anticipated, and later charged Mr Baramee Chaiyarat, a human rights defender from Thailand’s Assembly of the Poor and a member of Amnesty International Thailand Board, with sedition charge and violating the NCPO’s ban on political gathering, same as the students and Sirikan. In addition to Sirikan, an owner of the place where the fourteen student activists stayed during their activities from 25-26 June 2015 received a summons issued on 14 September 2016 for the same offences. As of October 2016, there are 17 people including fourteen student activists, two human rights and social activists, and a human rights lawyer who have been facing charges filed by Lt Col Pongsarit Pawangkanan in this case.

If indicted, Sirikan will be tried in a military court since the alleged acts were committed in 2015, before the issuing date of the Head of the NCPO Order no. 55/2016 on 12 September 2016, discontinuing prosecutions of civilians cases in military courts for crimes committed after that date. The Order does not apply to pending civilian cases or those committed before 12 September 2016, with about 517 persons currently facing trial in military courts. If found guilty, she shall be punished with a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment.

In addition, Sirikan is currently facing two other legal proceedings. One is the prosecution of offences related to refusing to comply with an order of competent officials and concealing evidence, after she refused to let the warrantless officials search her car on 27 June 2015. The hearing of prosecution order is rescheduled at 9.30 am on 3 November 2016 at the Office of Prosecutor of Dusit District in Bangkok, after the third postponement on 29 September 2016 due to the police’s scheduled submission of the case file to the prosecutor on 30 September 2016 (read more). She also received a summons for offences related to making false report to the police because of her filing a complaint of malfeasance in office against the police who impounded her car following her said refusal to let the officials search her car to confiscate her clients’ belongings. However, the inquiry officer could not identify the false information of the report as accused, the proceeding is therefore pending.