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Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Secretary-General of the Future Forward Party (FFP), went to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) on April 17 to acknowledge allegations by the NCPO’s legal representative of contempt of court and spreading false information online. 

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul went to the TCSD at the Chaeng Watthana Government Complex today to acknowledge allegations by the NCPO. Col Burin Thongprapai, its representative, filed lawsuits under Article 198 of Criminal Code for contempt of court and under Article 14 (2) of Computer Crime Act for spreading false information into computer system, after Piyabutr, as the FFP Secretary-General, criticized the Constitutional Court for disbanding the Thai Raksa Chart Party (TRC).

The FFP board, members and supporters went in the early morning to support Piyabutr. Piyabutr and his supporters showed three-finger signs. Some of them also displayed ‘Pocky’, a Japanese snack, to show support for Piyabutr, whose nickname is ‘Pock’. Angkhana Neelapaijit, a member of National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, also observed together with representatives of the UN Human Rights Office in Thailand.

Piyabutr's supporters displaying 'Pockey' 

If convicted, Piyabutr may go to jail for 7 years and pay fine of 14,000 baht at maximum for contempt of court. Formerly a legal scholar, Piyabutr questioned the law saying that Article 198 of the Criminal Code allows "anyone" to file for contempt of court, establishing a norm which limits the freedom to criticize any organizations in the future as third person can file a lawsuit.

Under Article 14(2) of the Computer Crime Act, he may also go to jail for 5 years and pay fine of 100,000 baht at maximum if convicted. According to iLaw, 53 people have been filed against under the Article 14(2) since the military coup in 2014, including the case of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and the other 3 FFP’s members for criticizing Phalang Pracharat Party last year.

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul

Piyabutr rejected Burin’s allegations saying that his statement after the disbandment of TRC shows no contempt of court. He also said that the one who sues him is from NCPO, and the head of NCPO is a PM candidate from Phalang Pracharat Party. Piyabutr thanked his supporters and observers for coming. Piyabutr said that he talked with Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit until 2.00 am the previous night and the lawsuits against both of them were expected since they were fighting to return democracy to Thailand.

Welcome to the Club

Before Songkran, police also pressed three charges against Thanathorn including sedition (Article 116 of the Criminal Code), helping a suspect escape (Article 189), and assembling more than 10 people to cause unrest (Article 215) for his participation in an anti-junta protest on 24 June 2015, the 83rd anniversary of Thailand’s democratic revolution in 1932.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit

If convicted, Thanathorn could be imprisoned for a maximum of 7 years, 2 years, and 6 months for each of the charges. According to NCPO’ Order No. 37/2557 of May 2014, Thanathorn’s case may have to be heard by a military court as one of his cases relates to national security under Articles 113-118 of the Criminal Code. Even though NCPO Order No.55/2559 ruled that such cases may now go before civilian courts, the Order exempted cases which occurred before 12 September 2016, which still have to go before military courts.     

Sombat Boonngamanong

When he went to Pathumwan Police Station on 6 April to acknowledge the allegations, around 200-300 people went in support, among them Sombat Boonngamanong, the leader of the Grin Party and a political activist. Through Prachatai, he said to Thanathorn “Welcome to the 116 club,” because he has also been charged twice under Article 116. According to iLaw, 104 people have been charged under Article 116 for sedition since the recent military coup.  

FFP's Supporters

Around 12 diplomats from the US, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the EU also went to Pathumwan Police Station to observe. Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Prime Minister of Thailand, said that “I don’t know if they truly are diplomats, I asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to follow-up with the Ambassadors.” Don Pramudwinai, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, invoked the Vienna Convention and said that other countries should not intervene in Thai internal affairs.

However, according to Bangkok Post, the US released an emailed statement saying that it is “standard diplomatic practice” to “observe fair trial guarantees and respect for rule of law.”  A statement from EU also said that “observation of hearings and trials is standard diplomatic practice worldwide. Its purpose is to enhance understanding of adherence to international standards such as human rights and due process.'' 

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