Thailand - Protection International is concerned about the  situation of student human rights defenders in Thailand facing criminal charges for having demonstrated peacefully in occasion of the one-year anniversary of the Thai coup d’état.

Seven members of the Dao Din Group, a students’ group advocating for community rights, social justice and democracy based at Khon Kaen University, in the North East region of Isaan, spent today awaiting arrest alongside other eight student activists from Bangkok.

The 7 Dao Din Group members were originally arrested in Khon Kaen on 22nd of May while peacefully expressing their concerns on the coup d’état negative impacts on the mismanagement of natural resources and on community based HRDs. Although released the next day on bail, the students were later summoned by police but, refusing to report themselves, moved to Loei province from where they declared to await for authorities to come and arrest them.

On the 22nd of May also 38 Bangkok-based student activists were arrested by authorities when they were peacefully demonstrating at the Bangkok Arts and Cultural Centre. Following excessive use of force, three students were hospitalized at Hua Chiew Hospital and one of them reported to have been punched in the face and kicked in the chest during the scuffle between officers and students.

The 38 activists were released without charges on the following day, but nine students were later summoned by the police to be informed of the charges against them.  However, eight refused to present themselves to the police station.

Today, 15 student activists, of whom seven are members of the Dao Din Group and eight are among those who had participated in Bangkok-based demonstrations, gathered at Pathumwan Police Station in Bangkok, supported by a group of hundred people, to file a complaint for the excessive use of violent force by authorities on 22nd May 2015 at the Bangkok Arts and Cultural Centre. Amongst the many announcements in the day the students identified themselves with the Neo-Democracy Movement (NDM), which brings together student activists, community-based Human Rights Defenders and other activists together for human rights, social justice, democracy, and to fight against the military dictatorship.

At the end of today, despite arrest warrants having been issued against all 15 students no arrests were made. All students, including the Dao Din Group members, face charges for breaching National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) order no. 3/2558, which, amongst other restrictions, forbids political gatherings or assemblies of more than five people and bans all opposition to the military junta. Once arrested, the students will be tried in military courts, without any right of appeal, and the sanctions faced include up to one year imprisonment and/or fines.

The persecution of these students is a further step towards the suppression and criminalisation of activities by any and all Human Rights Defenders in Thailand.

Protection International urges the international community to:

- Press the Thai military junta to immediately and unconditionally drop the charges against all student activists for exercising civil and political rights;

- Condemn and call for an end to aall acts of harassment and intimidation of the students' affinity groups, including family members, fellow students, friendship groups, community-based support groups, citizen journalists, lawyers and academics;

- Clearly call for a safe and enabling environment for all Human Rights Defenders and people to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms, which starts with the immediate repeal of all NCPO Orders and Article 44 of the Interim Consitution;

- Prepare and coordinate official and public visits to Khon Kaen, including meetings with the Khon Kaen Governor, "nd Region Army Chief, local authorities, families of the students. the other Dao Din student group members and other support networks of the Dao Din students facing intimidation and harassment.

To read the statement made by Forum Asia, please click here

To read the statement made by Front Line Defenders, please click here