Since 17 February 2017, protesters have gathered in front of the Government House to oppose the government bid to open a coal power plant in Krabi province. The authorities have moved in to take control of the area, by removing a portable restroom truck and prohibiting movement in and out of the demonstration site. Consequently, protestors have been impeded from getting access to food.

Earlier the authorities had filed a complaint requesting the Civil Court to issue an order for dissolution of the public assembly. The Court scheduled the first hearing on 20 February 2017. However, on the morning of 18 February 2017, the authorities moved in and arrested Mr. Prasitthichai Nunuan, Mom Luang Rungguna Kitiyakara, Mr. Akaradej Chakjinda, Mr. Banjong Nasae and Mr. Thatchapong Kaedam. The arrested persons were taken to the 11th Army Circle as per the Head of NCPO Order No. 3/2558 (2015). Meanwhile, 11 other protesters have also been apprehended and taken to the Patrol and Special Operation Division.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) deems the authorities to have failed to adhere to Section 19 (3) of the Public Assembly Act B.E. 2558 (2015), which obliges the competent officials to take care of any public assembly and to facilitate the gathering of protesters. Awaiting the Civil Court’s hearing on the dissolution request, the authorities invoked the Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2558 (2015) to carry out a premature arrest and detention of the demonstrators at a military barracks.

The authorities’ act is tantamount to a denial of an assembly conducted in a peaceful unarmed manner, and is an infringement of Section 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the freedom of peaceful assembly. Further, the act of impeding protesters’ access to food and facilities was beyond the scope of powers granted by the law.

In addition, during the first two hours of the detention of the three protesters—Prasitthichai, M.L. Rungguna and Akaradej, the authorities failed to disclose their whereabouts and denied them access to lawyers. TLHR deems taking civilians into custody at a military barracks under the Head of NCPO Order No. 3/2558 (2015), which grants authorities power to detain individuals for up to seven days without charges, a form of arbitrary arrest and detention as set out in Section 9 of the ICCPR, to which Thailand is a ratifying State party.

TLHR demands that the authorities immediately release all detainees and respect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and fundamental human rights in which a democratic society should uphold.

With respect for the rights and liberties of the people

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)