On June 26, 2015, Thai authorities arrested and detained fourteen university students in Bangkok, reportedly in connection to their participation in a nonviolent protest on June 25, 2015. The students are: Mr. Rangsiman Rome; Mr. Wasant Serdsitthi; Mr. Songtham Kaewphanpruek; Mr. Payu Bunsophon; Mr. Apiwat Sunthararak; Mr. Rattapol Supsophon; Mr. Supachai Phukhongploy; Mr. Apisit Sapnapaphan; Mr. Panuphong Srithananuwat; Mr. Suwicha Phithangkorn; Mr. Pakorn Arikul; Mr. Jatuphat Bunphatraksa; Mr. Pornchai Yuanyi; and Ms. Chonthira Chaengreaw.
On June 25, 2015, fourteen students from universities in both Bangkok and Khon Kaen led a peaceful demonstration against continued military rule in Thailand. The demonstration culminated at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok and then dispersed. Following the students’ decision to disperse the protest, they were reportedly followed by plainclothes police and military officers. The following day, at approximately 5:20 pm, officials arrested all fourteen at the house in which they were staying. The students were reportedly first taken that evening to the local police station, and were then sent to Bangkok Remand Prison and Central Women’s Prison for detention. Reports indicate that the students have been accused of violating Article 12 of Order No. 3/2558 issued by the National Council for Peace and Order under the authority of Article 44 of the 2014 Interim Constitution, which prohibits political gatherings of more than five people, and Article 116 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits incitement and agitation. If the students are charged, they are reportedly subject to prosecution within the military court system, in which there is no appeal. The charges against the students carry a maximum sentence of up to seven years in jail.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention and potential prosecution of university students, apparently 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. Imprisonment and prosecution aimed at limiting expression and association undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally. State officials have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of free expression and freedom of association, and, should the students be prosecuted, due process and fair trial.
Thai authorities reportedly released the detained students from custody on July 8, 2015. The criminal charges against the students, however, remain pending.