Regime wields Section 44 to arrest 10 for political posts

Regime wields Section 44 to arrest 10 for political posts

Harit Mahaton and Nithi Kooltasnasilp have taken to a Sri Patcharin military camp in Khon Kaen's Muang district on Wednesday. (Photo by Chakrapan Natunri)
Harit Mahaton and Nithi Kooltasnasilp have taken to a Sri Patcharin military camp in Khon Kaen's Muang district on Wednesday. (Photo by Chakrapan Natunri)

The regime on Wednesday exercised Section 44 of the interim constitution to arrest 10 people in Bangkok and Khon Kaen for posting anti-government messages online.

National Council for Peace and Order spokesman Col Winthai Suwaree late today confirmed the detention of eight people in Bangkok and two in Khon Kaen, with all brought to army bases to be held for up to a week for “attitude adjustment”.

The arrests were dubbed "abductions" by human-rights activists, as they came early in the morning by squads of as many as 20 soldiers who whisked away private citizens without any explanations to relatives why or where they were being taken from their homes.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said in a statement that the first three taken from their homes in Bangkok were Noppaklao Kongsuwan, Supachai Saibutr and Vararat Mengpramool. The identifies of the other five still have not been disclosed.

All were taken for detention at the 11th Army Circle in Bangkok.

In Khon Kaen, Harit Mahaton, 25, a former reporter and currently the owner of ramen shops in the Northeast and Laos, and Nithi Kooltasnasilp, 26, manager of Mr Harit's Khon Kaen ramen shop, were taken in Khon Kaen by about 20 soldiers, the TLHR reported.

Col Somchai Khanpachai, deputy commander of the 23rd Army Circle, told a news conference in Khon Kaen Wednesday afternoon that the two admitted belonging to the New Democracy Group and the Resistant Citizen Group led by Anon Kampa.

He said Mr Harit and Mr Nithi first had been brought to the 23rd Army Circle for questioning before being transferred to the 11th Army Circle in Bangkok.

He said the two were "invited for questioning" after the National Council for Peace and Order obtained evidence to confirm that the two had posted on the social media messages deemed in opposition to the work of the government.

They were threatened with charges for violating the Computer Crime Act and both cooperated well with the authorities, he said.

Col Winthai said others arrested in Bangkok also were being held for posting anti-government messages online. Authorities were still investigating whether any of those messages also violated the newly enacted Referendum Act of 2016 by advocating a position on voting for the draft constitution.

Col Somchai said the military was empowered by an NCPO order to detain them for seven days for interrogation. If sufficient evidence to charge them with violating the Computer Crime Act was found, suspects would be appear in military court.

In Bangkok, the TLHR statement said that relatives were not informed the reason the army was taking them into custody.

Winyat Chartmontree, secretary-general of the Group of Volunteer Lawyers for Human Rights, also posted on his Facebook page about the five civilians and called for their immediate release.

Under Section 44 of the 2014 interim constitution, the military can detain the suspects for seven days, during which they would be interrogated by police from the Technology Crime Suppression Division and officials from the Department of Special Investigation.


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