HRW calls on Thailand to drop charges against 4 anti-coup activists
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HRW calls on Thailand to drop charges against 4 anti-coup activists

Human Rights Watch has called on the Thai government to drop charges against four activists who expressed opposition to military rule by holding a mock election at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center last month.

The four, who are accused defying the junta’s ban on protests and, in one case, violating the Computer Crimes Act, were allowed go free by a Bangkok court Monday and ordered to return on March 27 for indictment.

While the decision not to remand the activists was welcomed in some quarters, Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said all charges should be dropped immediately.

“The Thai military junta should immediately stop arresting and prosecuting peaceful critics and end the trial of civilians in military courts. Every arbitrary arrest shows Thailand descending deeper into dictatorial rule,” he said.

He added: “The rolling crackdown on civil and political rights in Thailand continues without letup. Promises to respect human rights and restore democracy are constantly contradicted by the junta’s actions.”

The defendants are Arnon Nampha, 30, a human rights lawyer; Pansak Srithep, 48, an activist whose teenage son was killed in the 2010 crackdown on Redshirt protesters; Siriwit Serithiwat, 24, a fourth-year political science student at Thammasat University; and Wannakiat Chusuwan, 36, a taxi driver.

Khaosod English reported:

Speaking to the press upon his release, Arnon said he would like to thank the military court for giving him and other activists the chance to contest the charges outside prison. He declined to say whether his group will stage more rallies in the future.

“We will focus on fighting our case in the military court in accordance with the legal process,” said Arnon, who is a lawyer by profession.

The military, which took over power from a civilian government last May, issued a ban on political gatherings of five people or more. It also ordered security-related offenses to be handled by the military tribunals.

HRW’s Thailand page remained blocked by Thai censors Tuesday, though the rights group’s main page was accessible.