Military Forces Protest March by Farmers to be Called Off

 | Wed 12 Nov 2014 21:13 ICT

CityNews – The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) says it is “gravely concerned” after the military detained four people planning to march from Chiang Mai to Bangkok to demand land reform on Sunday.
Photos: Chiang Mai Police.

The event was organised by the Northern Farmers Federation to raise awareness of the thousands of poor people who have been evicted from protected areas. Participants also urged the junta to abolish its “return the forest” policy.

On Sunday morning, around 200 members of the Northern Farmers Federation assembled in the grounds of Wat Suan Dok for various activities. They made merit for dead farmers, set up a stage for speeches and performed various tribal rituals.

Police and soldiers arrived with trucks, and watched over the protesters. Soldiers talked to the farmers’ leaders and asked them not to walk to Bangkok since the protest would breach martial law, which bans political gatherings of more than five people.

They told the protesters that Deputy Prime Minister M.L. Panadda Diskul would meet them tomorrow at Chiang Mai Povincial Hall to discuss their problems and possible solutions.

The protesters set off on their planned walk, and after about 50 metres the soldiers detained four people – including Dr Prapart Pintobtang, a political scientist from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University – in a military vehicle.

The soldiers released them about 30 minutes later, after they promised to call off the march, reports said.

“The activists were only able to walk fifty metres before they were stopped and arrested by soldiers from Army Unit 33, based in Chiang Mai,” the AHRC said in a statement.

“The four activists who were detained were released after 30 minutes, but the walk rally was not permitted to continue. While the AHRC welcomes the quick release of the four activists, this is a clear indication of the ongoing expansion of the constriction of freedom of expression and political freedom that has characterised the rule of the [National Council for Peace and Order].”

The AHRC says it is concerned that the terms of martial law, the interim constitution and the NCPO’s orders “have provided the legal infrastructure for the systematic stripping of basic freedoms and human rights protections in Thailand. Nearly six months have passed since the coup in Thailand and there is no clear sign of when martial law will be revoked. The Asian Human Rights Commission condemns the coup in the strongest possible terms and calls for an immediate return to a civilian government and the protection of human rights.”