Police fail to arrest Rajabhakti protesters

Police fail to arrest Rajabhakti protesters

Siriwich Serithiwat (second from right) and friends show off origami birds made from arrest warrants after declaring their refusal to submit to the justice process under
Siriwich Serithiwat (second from right) and friends show off origami birds made from arrest warrants after declaring their refusal to submit to the justice process under "dictatorship" at Thon Buri train station on Saturday. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Police and soldiers declined to arrest five anti-coup activists wanted on warrants during a standoff at Thon Buri train station on Saturday for fear of "playing into their hands".

Siriwich "Ja New" Serithiwat, 23, leader of the New Democracy Movement (NDM), came to the station at 10am. He was accompanied by Chonticha Jangrel, 22, Chanoknan Ruamsap, 22, Korakot Sangyenpan, 23, and Abhisit Sapnapapan, 29.

They read a statement, the third they have issued, reiterating their refusal to participate in the justice process under "dictatorial rule".

"We received summonses for taking a train to Rajabhakti Park. We made clear then that we would not take part in the justice process under dictatorship. Today, arrest warrants are out for us," the statement said.

"This is the reward a person gets for trying to dig into corruption under the regime."

Everything about the Hua Hin park — allegations of kickbacks, the stand of the National Council for Peace and Order and the army's lack of transparency, as well as the treatment of those seeking the truth — have shown beyond doubt there is corruption in the project, the students said.

"It's not an overstatement to say those responsible — the NCPO and the army — are corrupt." Ms Chonthicha said.

"From now on, we and democracy fighters under the NDM will proceed with our activities to check all NCPO's projects to protect the interests of the people, the true owner of sovereignty.

"We insist, as we always do, that we won't run. We'll live normally and will continue to do what we believe in. We'll fight dictatorship to the end."

After reading the statement, the protesters folded their arrest warrants into origami birds "to send a message to all dictatorship fighters that we demand democracy, freedom and justice in a peaceful way despite threats".

Mr Siriwich raised a copy of Naew Na newspaper with a big headline saying "Arrest warrants for Ja New. Srivara gives go-ahead" and said: "Let's go for it, Srivara." The reference was to Pol Lt Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the deputy national police chief.

At that point, one of the cheering spectators told Mr Siriwich he should not be limiting his comments to Rajabhakti Park. "You should also talk about rice pledging and rubber prices so you can be the voice of the people," he said.

Ms Chonthicha told reporters she was concerned about the arrest warrant and other matters but would continue to fight on. "I believe that even if my friends and I are arrested, our friends will continue to fight on."

Pol Lt Col Pakphum Ruangsilp, chief of the Thon Buri train station police station, said 40 joint forces officers had sealed the area after learning about the demonstration.

But when the time came, the protesters spread out around the area before reading the statement. "We didn't arrest them for fear of playing into their hands," he said without elaborating.

The military court issued arrest warrants for them last week after they failed to answer summonses.

The five students, together with six other NDM members, left the Thon Buri train station for Hua Hin on Dec 7 in what they called "a voyage in search of corruption" at Rajabhakti Park.

They were met by an angry crowd at Ban Pong station where their carriage was cut from the train and police escorted them away, saying it was partly for their own protection. They later received summonses to report to police and five of them agreed to do so.

Arrest warrants for illegal assembly were approved on Wednesday for the remaining six who had not reported, and five of them showed up in protest at the Thon Buri station on Saturday.

The other man being sought, Thanet Anantawong, 25, has reportedly fled Thailand. He also faces charges of lese majeste, inciting disorder and computer crimes, following his alleged involvement in posting or sharing a "corruption chart" that implicated military and government figures in irregularities in the construction of the park.

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