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Freedom party chief deny sedition charges, expressed concern over military trial


Devdiscourse News Desk Bangkok
Updated: 06-04-2019 14:08 IST
Freedom party chief deny sedition charges, expressed concern over military trial

Thanathorn said he views the case as politically motivated because "the timing couldn't have been more coincidental than this — just one week after elections."Thanathorn said he views the case as politically motivated because "the timing couldn't have been more coincidental than this — just one week after elections." Image Credit: Wikipedia

The leader of a popular new Thai political party that ran a strong third in last month's elections on Saturday denied the criminal charges of sedition filed against him by the ruling military junta and expressed concern that he will be tried in a military court. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit was greeted by hundreds of supporters chanting "Keep fighting, Thanathorn!" as he arrived at the Pathumwan police station in Bangkok to answer a police summons on complaints of sedition, assisting criminals and illegal assembly filed by a junta officer. The charges carry a maximum prison sentence of up to nine years.

"I'm concerned because this case is under the military court instead of the criminal court," he said in a statement to reporters. "That is quite unsettling." He said he was treated fairly by police and added: "There are many citizens in Thailand that have been charged with (sedition under Article) 116 including those that have not received any public attention. The regime creates fear for the society to silence us," Thanathorn said.

"I insist I am innocent I am ready to stand firm in the court proceedings. I urge all Thais and the international community to call for civil rights to stand for human rights for the betterment of our society." Police Gen. Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, deputy chief of police, said on Wednesday that the charges against Thanathorn stem from his role in a student demonstration on June 24, 2015. He said the case had stalled because of several reshuffles among the responsible officers. Thanathorn said he views the case as politically motivated because "the timing couldn't have been more coincidental than this — just one week after elections."

Thailand has been led by a military government since a coup in 2014 and the ruling junta has kept a tight lid on dissent. It has slapped criminal charges against critics while some had been detained for up to weeks for "attitude adjustment" sessions at military bases in efforts to change their views.

The coup leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, became junta chief and prime minister and is now seeking to lead the next government after a party backing his reappointment won the most popular votes, according to preliminary results of the March 24 elections. Sakda Tanpratoomwong, a Bangkok supporter who voted for Future Forward, said he came to the police station to "show support to Thanathorn" and "to fight injustice in this country." He held up a sign that read "End of the age of the dinosaur." He said another person came with him in a dinosaur mascot to symbolize old Thai politics.

Thanathorn's party said the police interview was observed by several embassies and U.N. representatives, including those from the U.S. and the European Union. They declined to comment to reporters. The Future Forward Party positions itself as youth-oriented and is deeply opposed to the military rule. It's a strong showing in the elections has made them a target for the military and its supporters. Several criminal complaints and protests to election authorities have already been lodged against Thanathorn and his party. The election results are due to be ratified by May 9. Meanwhile, political parties are in a race over which side will be able to gather enough support to form the next government.

(With inputs from agencies.)

COUNTRY : Thailand