Thailand asked to withdraw charges against student protesters

Bangkok, June 5 (IANS) Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday urged the Thai military government to withdraw charges against 11 students who peacefully protested against the regime around the end of May, Efe news agency reported.

Authorities arrested more than 40 activists in Bangkok and other provinces where peaceful protests were held on May 22, the first anniversary of the coup in which the army assumed power in the country.

Four students in Bangkok and seven others in Khon Kaen, in north-eastern Thailand, were charged with violating the junta’s ban on political activity and holding a public gathering of more than five people.

The students will be tried in a military court where they face a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a 20,000 baht ($592) fine.

“The prosecution of students for peaceful protests shows that the military junta has no intention of easing its oppressive rule,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha declared military rule on May 20 last year amid anti-government protests.

He assumed power two days later, which he claimed was to prevent violence from escalating and reform the system against corruption.

Hundreds of politicians and activists, including former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, were arrested without charges and detained in military barracks for days or weeks.

Several dissidents have been tried and sentenced by military courts.

Around the beginning of April, Thailand revoked military rule and replaced it with an article of the provisional constitution which continues to grant ample powers to the general.

“Gagging public protests makes a mockery of the junta’s self-proclaimed commitment to return to democracy,” Adams said.

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