Thailand: Military trial of peaceful protesters an “affront to justice”

The conviction of four peaceful protesters by a Thai military court today is an affront to justice and another sign of repression under military rule, Amnesty International said. 

The Bangkok Military Court today sentenced four individuals to three months’ imprisonment and 5,000 Bhat (US$150) fines for violating the ban on public gatherings of more than five people, imposed by the military under Martial Law. As the four pleaded guilty, the jail terms are suspended by two years.

“This is another attempt by the Thai authorities to silence dissent and make an example of those who voice opposition against military rule. These individuals have done nothing but peacefully express their opinions – they should never have had to face trials, and their convictions and sentences should be quashed immediately,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

“The four were convicted for acts that must never constitute offences in a court that must never try civilians.”

Shortly after seizing power in May 2014, the National Council for Peace and Order – Thailand’s military administration – extended the jurisdiction of the military courts to try civilians for breaching military orders and offences relating to “national security”. Dozens more individuals are set to face military trials for voicing opposition to the military over the coming weeks.

Amnesty International opposes the use of military courts to try civilians in all countries and in all circumstances, as it violates fair trial rights. Civilians convicted in a military court in Thailand have no right of appeal to a higher court.

“No civilian should be tried in a military court in any circumstance – authorities should move all such cases to civilian courts and stop prosecuting people for acts which are not internationally recognized as offences,” said Rupert Abbott

“Trying civilians in military courts with no right to appeal violates Thailand’s commitments to protect the right to a fair trial. The Thai authorities should also immediately reinstate the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – the current sweeping restrictions on these rights are creating a climate of fear.”