Pro-military laws upset activists

A protest at the coup-installed parliament in December 2007 was aimed purely at stopping the enactment of laws that gave the military too much power and undermined the rights of the people, a court has been told.

First defendant Jon Ungphakorn and nine other activists have been accused of inciting unrest and violence after they climbed over a parliament fence and sat in the compound.

They wanted to stop the coup-installed National Legislative Assembly (NLA) from passing bills covering security, land and natural resources management during a protest in December 2007, he told the Criminal Court at Ratchada on Tuesday.

It was not until nearly three years later that the prosecution took the case to the court, in December 2010.

Charges against the well-known human rights defenders were brought under the Criminal Code.

All defendants face up to seven-years' imprisonment if found guilty.

The other defendants are Sawit Kaew-wan, a state enterprise union leader; Sirichai Maingam, another state enterprise union leader; Pichit Chaimongkol, NGO and political activist; Anirut Khaosanit, farmer activist; Nasser Yeemha, NGO and political activist; Amnat Palamee, state enterprise union leader; Pairoj Polpetch, NGO and human rights activist; Saree Ongsomwang, NGO and consumer rights activist; and Supinya Klangnarong, freedom of expression and media reform activist.

Mr Jon, then chairman of the NGO Coordinating Committee (NGO-CC), said the coup-makers had installed the government of the day and the NLA, which in its early days had endorsed unpopular laws including the Computer Crime Act. Later other legislation, such as the Community Forestry Act and the Internal Security Act (ISA), was also introduced.

Members of the NGO-CC leadership discussed among themselves the severe impact of those bills on the rights of the people.

The ISA had given enormous power to the military in such a a way that it would infringe on the rights of the people, Mr Jon said.

The army was given so much power that it could overshadow the power of the civilian government.

Twenty-five witnesses, in addition to the defendants themselves, will testify to the court, with witnesses appearing every day except Mondays until March 14.

About 30 prosecution witnesses have testified.

About the author

Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
Position: Senior Reporter