PM offers talks with student activists
Support for detained pupils gains momentum
The New Democracy Movement (NDM) student group has welcomed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's invitation to hold talks with student activists protesting against the military regime.
Itthipol Khotamee, a representative of the group, said Thursday they welcomed the prospect.
Responding to escalating calls for the release of the 14 student activists being held for violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) ban on political gatherings, Gen Prayut said on Wednesday the government was exploring ways to initiate talks with anti-coup student groups. The students were leading the NDM until they were nabbed.
The students were arrested last Friday following their rally against the military regime, and are being detained at Bangkok Remand Prison and the Central Women's Correctional Institution awaiting trial in Bangkok Military Court.
Mr Itthipol claimed undercover agents had approached his parents and those of other students in the group and invited them to dine together to dissuade their parents from protesting against the government.
State officials had also encouraged the parents of the 14 arrested students to seek bail for their children, after the students earlier refused to apply for bail on the ground they did not recognise the military courts.
Mr Itthipol said the group considered these actions as threats against them and wanted them to stop. Some students wanted to file complaints with police regarding the "threats" but the group had not yet considered taking legal action.
Before they visited the arrested students yesterday, the group read a statement saying men wearing uniforms similar to those of the military had intimidated their families and their teachers.
They condemned the acts and called for better protection of their basic rights.
Naruemon Thabchumpon, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, who also visited the arrested students, said she and other teachers wanted to encourage the government to release the 14 students.
But if the government insists on prosecuting the students, proceedings should be conducted in a civilian court, not a military one, she said. The students should be treated as suspects in a political case, not as criminal suspects, and they should be detained at the city facility previously used for holding suspects in political cases, Ms Naruemon said.
Meanwhile, Wanchai Tantiwithayapitak, deputy director of state-owned Thai Public Broadcast Service (Thai PBS) TV station, is defending his decision to broadcast a documentary about the students on Thursday.
He had told the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) the station had strictly followed the law.
The NBTC had asked him and other station executives to explain why complaints were received that the broadcast last Thursday could trigger conflicts in society.