Court frees Ja New's mum amid human rights pressure

Court frees Ja New's mum amid human rights pressure

Patnaree Charnkij and son Sirawith 'Ja New' Seritiwat embrace outside the Bangkok Women's Correctional Institution after she was freed on bail. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)
Patnaree Charnkij and son Sirawith 'Ja New' Seritiwat embrace outside the Bangkok Women's Correctional Institution after she was freed on bail. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)

The Military Court late Sunday granted bail to alleged anti-coup protester and lese majeste suspect Patnaree Charnkij, hours after it had approved a police request to detain her for 12 days.

The release of Ms Patnaree, mother of Resistance Citizen group leader Sirawith "Ja New" Seritiwat, came amid pressure on a Thai delegation set to defend the country's human rights records in Geneva on Wednesday.

Ms Patnaree was escorted early Sunday morning from the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) to the Military Court where police asked for permission to detain her until May 19 for further questioning. She was then taken to Bangkok Women's Correctional Institution for detention.

However, the suspect's legal team led by Pavinee Choomsri submitted a bail request with a 500,000-baht surety on the ground that Ms Patnaree posed no flight risk and she turned herself in to police.

The Military Court agreed to release the suspect on bail on condition that she shall not travel abroad, join any political activity or engage in acts that may lead to public disorder.

Mr Sirawith, who turned up at the court to provide moral support to his mother, slammed the regime over the legal moves against her saying it was holding his mother hostage. He said he was confident his mother did nothing wrong and did not break any law.

The activist said he was not deterred by the military's move and would continue to fight for his cause.

A huge outpouring of support both at home and abroad for Mrs Patnaree and against the military regime took place before the Military Court reversed its decision to deny bail. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Former foreign minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul urged the military government to exercise caution in handling critics, saying the country's human rights record is at stake.

Mr Surapong said the situation could affect the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a report on various countries' human rights records, with sittings being held this week in Geneva.

Thailand is one of the 14 states being reviewed by the UPR working group during its current session, which ends on Friday.

Justice permanent secretary Charnchao Chaiyanukit is leading a delegation of government officials to Geneva to present Thailand's human rights record to the UN Human Rights Council. Reports of independent human rights experts and other stakeholders will also be presented.

Mr Surapong said a bad review could affect the international community's confidence in the regime and have repercussions on foreign trade and investment in the country.

Meanwhile, anti-coup activists under the New Democracy Movement held an event at Thammasat University's Tha Phrachan campus to criticise the regime over its legal moves against critics.

Mr Sirawith was expected to join the event.

Titled "Making fun is not a crime", the event involved the regime's decision to take action against eight Facebook users who were arrested and charged with inciting public unrest and breaching the Computer Crime Act.

They were accused of being behind Facebook posts that authorities say could instigate chaos.

The online messages allegedly criticised the prime minister and the regime.

Gen Thawip Netniyom, secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC), warned the activists Sunday not to break the law or the regime's orders, saying they could face legal action.

He also criticised attempts to bring in international organisations to put pressure on the government, saying the charges against the suspects including Ms Patnaree were based on evidence.

Gen Thawip also suggested foreign groups study Thai laws to understand the fact that authorities were only enforcing the law.

United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leader Jatuporn Prompan weighed in on Ms Patnaree's case, saying the military's treatment of her was a disgrace to the military institution.

He said the authorities were using Ms Patnaree as a hostage against Mr Sirawith, a staunch critic of the regime, as they were unable to go after him.

The red shirt leader warned this case could also backfire on the government if the people felt the regime was overstepping its authority.

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