On June 24, 2016, police officers reportedly arrested seven student activists for holding a demonstration and distributing a newspaper. The students include Kasetsart University students Aranyika Jungwa, Kasemchart Chatratsai, Suthida Watanasing, Karn Sathisilkul, Uthai Chuaytua; and Ramkhamhaeng University students Kunapat Kachana, and Chanoknan Ruamsup.
On the morning of June 24, student activists gathered to march to Bangkok’s Laksi monument to observe the 84th anniversary of the Siamese Revolution, a nonviolent coup credited with transforming Thailand from an absolute to constitutional monarchy in 1932. Outside the monument, the students reportedly distributed copies of the New Democracy Movement’s newspaper Kao Kham (translated as “Moving Past”). Police officers monitoring the event reportedly asked the group to disburse and to stop distributing the paper; the students refused and continued their march, eventually arriving on the campus of Phranakhon Rajabhat University. There, the police reportedly seized the students’ newspapers (which the students argued were unrelated to the Junta’s draft charter – students distributing flyers criticizing the charter were arrested in a separate incident on June 23) and arrested the students apparently for violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 3/2558, which bans political gatherings of five or more people. The students were reportedly released later that day and have not yet been formally charged with violating Order No. 3/2558.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest and detention of students as a result of nonviolent expression and association – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. State officials have a responsibility not to interfere with the rights to freedom of expression and association, so long as such rights are exercised peacefully and responsibly. Arrest and detention aimed at limiting expression and association undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally. State officials have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of free expression, freedom of association, due process and fair trial.