'MBK39' walk free during investigation

'MBK39' walk free during investigation

Nuttaa 'Bow' Mahattana and Rangsiman Rome during the rally on the BTS skywalk in Pathumwan district in Bangkok on Jan 27. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Nuttaa 'Bow' Mahattana and Rangsiman Rome during the rally on the BTS skywalk in Pathumwan district in Bangkok on Jan 27. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The courts have unconditionally released during investigation 33 people accused of violating the public assembly and internal security laws, as well as the junta’s order on political gatherings.

Hundreds of people met on the skywalk in Bangkok's Pathumwan district to oppose power succession by the junta and demand the general election be held this year.

Thirty-nine of them were later singled out for prosecution. They were later known by media as the “MBK39” group, a reference to a mall close to their rally site.

Police accused all of them of violating the public assembly law and the junta’s order on a political assembly of more than five people. Two of them confessed during the questioning and were released. 

Nine of them viewed by police as being leaders also faced sedition charges under the internal security law (Section 116), a more serious charge under the jurisdiction of the military court.

The remaining 37 were summoned to hear the charges on Thursday.

Thirty-three of them showed up and denied the charges. They included Veera Somkwamkid, Sombat Boonngam-anong, Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, Nuttaa Mahattana and Sukrit Piansuwan. 

The remaining four -- Rangsima Rome, Sirawich Seritiwat, Anon Nampa and Ekkachai Hongkangwan -- contacted police to reschedule the date to hear the charges.

Those facing two charges were sent to the Pathumwan court in Bangkok as the offences carry jail term less than three years.

The latter group, who also faced sedition charges, were sent to the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court for more serious offences.

Both courts dismissed police’s detention requests but allowed officials to delay filing the charges against them.

The Southern Bangkok court reasoned the suspects were not flight risks and had cooperated well with police.

The court said the remaining five witnesses were officials so there was no need to detain the suspects further.

“As for the claim the suspects would attend a rally on Feb 10 and might cause unrest, the court view it’s just a speculation.”   

The suspects were only asked to cooperate with police if they are summoned for more questioning.

Unlike previous gatherings where only the leaders were prosecuted, the 39 people were charged even though some of them did not address the crowd.

The MBK39 had earlier tried to mobilise funds for bail, expected at 3.6 million baht in total, and contacted academics to vouch for them in the event the courts approved police requests. 

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