Students arrested over white ribbon campaign for disappeared activist

Police have pressed charges against three students for violation of the Cleanliness Act and failing to carry their national identification cards after they attempted to tie white ribbons at various locations around Bangkok to protest against the abduction in Cambodia of Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit.

The four students at the Samranrat Police Station (Source: Student Union of Thailand)

Parit Chiwarak, one of the four student activists, said the police initially charged them with violation of the Emergency Decree but later dropped the charge after the students said they would protest by drawing their blood if charged under the Decree.

The police cited Section 12 of the 1992 Act on the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness of the Country, which states, “no one shall scrape, chip, scratch, write, spray paint or make appear by any means” messages in public places. Violators are subject to a fine of no more than 5,000 baht.

They also cited the 1983 National Identity Card Act as the students failed to present their ID cards when asked by officers.

Four students activists of the Student Union of Thailand (SUT) — Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul,Jutatip Sirikhan, Chanin Wongsri and Parit Chiwarak — were taken to Samranrat Police station on Tuesday (9 June) afternoon while they were trying to tie white ribbons at the Democracy Monument.

Around 30 uniformed and undercover officers were reported to be on scene.

Before the arrest, they went to various locations in Bangkok including the Phaya Thai area, the Ratchaprasong area, the Pratunam area, the Equestrian Statue, the First Army Area Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence. This is a part of the SUT’s “White Ribbon Against Dictatorship” campaign, in which they invite the public to display a white ribbon to call for justice for Wanchalearm.

A white ribbon tied to the gates at the First Army Area Headquarters.

When they were in front of the Ministry of Defence, around 10 military officers stopped them and said their campaign was not allowed as “it was symbolic.”

While Jutatip, Chanin and Parit were charged with violation of cleanliness and identification acts, Panusaya was only charged with violation of the Traffic Act as her parked car obstructed the traffic.

Police were reportedly trying to search Panatsaya’s cars without a warrant, taking photos of its licence plate without her lawyer’s presence and denying the presence of the students’ lawyers when explaining their allegations.

Students and professors from many universities gathered in front of Samranrat Police Station showing support for them while the hashtag #ปล่อยเพื่อนเรา (#LetOurFriendsGo) trended on Twitter as members of the public called for their release.

After almost six hours in police custody, they were released at 20:00. The police plan to deliver the case to prosecutors on 22 June at 9:00 at Samranrat Police Station. They together sang Jit Phumisak’s song “Starlight of Faith” and shouted “Dictatorship shall fall” as the students emerged.

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