Move Forward MP urges government to free political detainees

Move Forward MP Bencha Saengchan called on the government today (Friday) to release all political detainees and prisoners held captive since 2014, claiming that they were persecuted by the state simply because of their different political opinions.

She claimed, during the fourth day of the censure debate today, that, under the military junta that came into power in a May 2014 coup, 2,408 civilians were arrested and tried in military and civilian courts, including 428 charged with illegal assembly, 197 with violating the Computer Crime Act, 124 with instigating public unrest and 169 facing lèse majesté charges.

She accused Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of abusing his power and exploiting laws to persecute people who think differently from the government and to suppress free expression.

No one should be arrested or incarcerated for expressing a political opinion which differs from the government’s, especially a government which came to power as the result of a coup, said the opposition MP, adding that the first step towards political reconciliation in the country is to release these people.

Before ending her speech, Bencha and her Move Forward MPs raised pictures of two pro-democracy activists, Netiporn Sanesangkhom and Nutthanit Duangmusit, currently being detained at the Central Women’s Correctional Institute on lèse majesté charges, after conducting a public opinion poll on royal motorcades. The two are reported to have been on hunger strike since June 2nd, in protest against their pre-trial detention.

Meanwhile, another Move Forward MP, Rangsiman Rome, accused the prime minister of protecting corrupt police officers and nepotism, resulting in many honest police officers losing morale and opportunities for career advancement.

He cited the specific case of Pol Maj-Gen Paween Pongsirin, former deputy commissioner of Provincial Police Region 8, who take refuge in Australia in fear of his life following his investigation into human trafficking of Rohingya refugees in southern provinces in 2015.

He then cited another suspected corruption case, relating to the budget for the maintenance of police aircraft for the 2020 fiscal year. He said that a contract had been signed with Thai Airways International (THAI) for 950 million baht, to undertake the maintenance, but the maintenance costs have ballooned to 2.774 billion baht, adding that, in September last year, THAI served a notice on the Police Aviation Division, demanding that they settle the outstanding debt, amounting to 1.824 billion baht, but the division could not do so.

Rangsiman claimed that the Royal Thai Police had set up a committee to investigate the case but, after six months, there has been no progress and there is still internal conflict involving the committee members.

He also claimed that the prime minister is fully aware of the case and finally ordered the Central Fund to approve a special budget to pay THAI for the unexplained additional maintenance costs.


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