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45 protest guards from the We Volunteer group have gone to hear additional charges after being arrested by armed police before a protest on 6 March. Despite being released from detention by other protesters while under a police escort, they took the decision to walk to the nearest police station to turn themselves in and demonstrate that they were not trying to escape. The police have nevertheless charged them with resisting officials.

A We Volunteer member hand behind a police cage van on 6 March.

The latest charge hearing took place on 31 March at Phaholyothin Police Station. They had previously been charged for violating the Covid-19 control Emergency Decree, forming a criminal organization and forming a secret society), according to Matichon.

Pawinee Chumsri, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said the WeVo members face different charges, ranging from resisting or fighting back against the authorities, possessing unauthorized military equipment (vests) to possessing unauthorized walkie talkies. The accused will have to report to the prosecutor on 9 April at 10.00.

Originally, 46 were arrested at the scene, including Piyarat Chongthep, the leader who has been in prison since March 9. They were arrested by an armed police SWAT team while they were at a nearby shopping mall, eating and waiting to attend the protest at the Criminal Court on 6 March.

Trash dumped and burned at court entrance

According to their testimony to TLHR, they were rounded up by the police commandos, forced to lie on the ground, had guns pointed at their backs, had their hands tied with cables and had their belongings seized.

They were put into 3 different detention vehicles, 1 of which, containing 18 people, was able to make it to Border Patrol Police Region 1. The other 2 were intercepted by the protesters on Ratchadapisek Road. The cage padlocks on the second vehicle were broken and the WeVo members got out. Another 14 who were sitting in the third vehicle remained inside for 2 hours in total.

At 21.10, a lawyer from TLHR came to see the remaining WeVo members in the third vehicle and took them to Phaholyothin Police Station to present themselves out of fear of being charged with escaping. Those from the second vehicle later followed them to the station, 28 in total.

Pawinee said the charge of resisting the authorities was filed by the police despite the fact that they had voluntarily presented themselves at the police station, where the incident was recorded in the daily log. The charge reflects the abnormal reaction of the authorities to people who express their political views, resulting in unfair treatment right from the beginning of the judicial process. 

“They were eating at the time. They were still eating and had not gone to the protest and had not caused any disorder.  You may charge them with forming a secret society or whatever, but you still have no evidence to prosecute them. They had not done anything as has been claimed. I think it is an unfair prosecution,” said Pavinee.

The TLHR lawyer said the police should return to the principle where a person charged has committed an offence and the elements of the offence exist. The prosecution for political purposes against those who have different opinions cannot change their opinions. The discriminatory treatment that people receive will alienate them from the judicial system and the state’s system.

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