Sombat appeals to court for release-Bangkok Post

July 1, 2010

Court to hear red activist’s appeal

The Criminal Court has agreed to hear red-shirt activist Sombat Boonngamanong’s appeal against his detention this Friday, his lawyer Anon Nampa said on Wednesday.

The Ratchada Court agreed on Tuesday to hear from Mr Sombat, who is in custody, and the police officer who arrested him on behalf of the Centre for Restoration of the Emergency Situation (CRES), said Mr Anon.

Mr Anon said he would on Thursday make application to take his client, now in custody at the Border Patrol Police 1st Region Command in Pathum Thani province, before the court on Friday.

If  Mr Sombat is not allowed to appear in person, his client might speak via videoconference, the lawyer said.

The emergency decree permits authorities to hold suspects for a week. Any extension must be approved by a court, up to seven days at a time, with a maximum detention period of  30 days. Mr Sombat’s current detention expires on July 3.

Mr Sombat, president of the Mirror Foundation and a Chiang Rai native, was arrested on  June 26 while tying a red ribbon at Ratchaprasong area in remembrance of the bloody May crackdown against the red-shirt demonstrators.

The police had arrested him under a CRES warrant issued on  May 21 he and other dozens of dovish red-shirt sympathisers gathered under the Lat Phrao expressway to share information and photos of the government’s dispersal that led to scores of deaths during the May 13-19 operation.

In the appeal application to the court, which led to the court hearing this Friday, Mr Sombat argued that his detention was unconstitutional and illegal since the decree was wrongly applied against innocent people who simply had different opinions to the government.

Meanwhile the National Human Right Commission (NHRC) sub-committee on civil rights chaired by  Niran Pitakwatchara would decide on tomorrow  what to recommend to the CRES on the implementation of the emergency decree, which it is claimed has led to a number of unjustified detentions.

The cabinet will decide on July 6 whether to renew decree, which has a life of three months and expires on July 7, in all or some areas.
The subcommittee on civil rights has decided to go ahead with its consideration and forward a recommendation to the government without waiting for the seven-member NHRC board due to time constraints, Dr Niran said.

The subcommittee would also dispatch staff to observe the situation in provinces under the emergency decree such as Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Mukdahan and some northern provinces to see the impact of the detentions and  arrest warrants to the people’s rights.

Asian Human Rights Commission representative Nick Cheesman has told a Hong Kong newspaper that the recent one-year appointment of Thai ambassador to Geneva Sihasak Phuangketkeow to head the United Nations Human Rights Council was a victory for diplomacy over the rights that the council was supposed to uphold.

The Hong Kong-based Cheesman said while Thailand was endeavouring to improve its standing abroad with Mr Sihasak’s nomination, the government at home has persistently undermined the rights of its citizens, with around a third of the country under a state of emergency.

The new president of the Geneva-based U.N. council, said the Hong Kong-based NGO executive, was not a rights defender either. In 2003, Mr Sihasak  was government spokesman during the infamous “war on drugs”. Mr Sihasak described the operation, in which over 2,000 alleged dealers were extrajudicially killed, as being conducted “within a legal framework”.

Since taking up the ambassadorship three years ago Sihasak has denied the extent and systemic character of rights abuse in his country. The government he represents has not made any serious attempts to follow up on recommendations of U.N. committees and independent experts,  Mr Cheesman said, according to a story in today’s  South China Morning Post.

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