FACTflash: Thailand 10 — Case postponed to March 2013 – Nonviolence on trial

March 19, 2012

HR activists case deferred to 2013

Achara Ashayagachat

Bangkok Post: March 19, 2012

An on-going trial involving high-profile human rights activists who climbed over the fence of the parliament when the coup-installed parliament was in power has been postponed to next year as prosecutors are undergoing annual internal rotation.

The delayed trial of the 10 defendants on charges of incitement to cause unrest (Section 116 of the Penal Code) and instigating violence (Section 215) which began on Feb 21 came to a halt last week after the court agreed to prosecutor’s requests for a postponement.

The Office of the Attorney General was about to conclude its annual internal reshuffle and needed more time for a new team to handle the case. The prosecutor has also requested additional witnesses, according to one of the defence lawyers, Sangchai Ratanaseriwong.

Mr Sangchai told the Bangkok Post that defence lawyers argued against the postponement, suggesting the time arranged for defence witnesses could be used to finish the hearing of prosecution witnesses.

“Re-scheduling will not only affect the lives and work of the defence but also defence witnesses, most of whom are high-profile in their fields, meaning they are very busy. Thus re-arranging their time for a future trial will be cumbersome and an unnecessary workload for the defence,” he said.

However, the court agreed to the prosecutor’s request and has re-scheduled the next hearing from January to March 2013, Mr Sangchai said.

Defendants in the so-called “NLA-Sit In” lawsuit include Jon Ungphakorn, former chair of Thai Volunteer Services Foundation, former chair of Thai NGO Coordinating Committee (NGO-COD), a Ramon Magsaysay Award laureate and a former Bangkok senator.

The other nine are State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC) secretary general Sawit Keawwan, Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’s labour union secretary general Sirichai Mai-ngam, Rangsit University staff member Pichit Chaimongkol, People’s Organisation Network Council coordinator Anirut Khaosanit, Green Politics member Nasser Yeemha, SERC member Amnat Palamee, human rights defender and incumbent chair of NGO-Cod Pairoj Polpetch, Foundation for Consumers secretary general Saree Ongsomwang and National Broadcast and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) member Supinya Klangnarong.

A thousand activists were protesting outside the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), installed after the 2006 coup, against passing controversial laws in December 2007 as they considered it would be more legitimate for an elected legislature to have the final deliberation on the bills.

The prosecution of the cases was not accepted by the Court until Dec 30, 2010 — with harsh charges laid such as violating Section 116 of the Penal Code (any act that brings about changes in the laws of the country or the government, or incites unrest and disaffection among the people), Section 215 (an assembly of 10 people or more to commit an act of violence and to cause a breach of the peace), Sections 362 and 364 (trespassing), and Section 365 (trespassing and committing an act of violence).

Mr Jon told the Bangkok Post he has been dumbfounded and distracted by the prolonged court case as it will now drag on into six years.

He was very disturbed to hearing accusations that he was speaking via a megaphone to incite people into storming the parliament as it was not true, he said in a telephone interview.

Most of the 24 prosecution witnesses have already testified to the court, but the defence witnesses have yet to appear.

Among the 24 defence witnesses are law professors Kanit Na Nakorn, Jaran Cosananand, Vitit Muntabhorn, political scientists Chaiwat Satha-anand, Surichai Wungaeo, Surachart Bumrungsuk, senators Rosana Tositrakul and Somchai Sawang-karn, Phra Paisal Wisalo and lawyer Paisal Puetmongkol.

The Thailand 10 on trial for a sit-in against military laws has now been postponed until next year, March 2013, at the public prosecutor’s request. The sit-in took place in 2007.

Justice delayed is justice denied…

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