Thai police go after moms who held vigil seeking release of their activist children

Suriya Sithijirawattanakul attends an April 28 vigil at the Supreme Court alongside other mothers seeking the release of their children, all leaders in the pro-democracy movement, held in indefinite pre-trial detention. Photos: Resistant Citizen / Facebook
Suriya Sithijirawattanakul attends an April 28 vigil at the Supreme Court alongside other mothers seeking the release of their children, all leaders in the pro-democracy movement, held in indefinite pre-trial detention. Photos: Resistant Citizen / Facebook

The mothers of a pro-democracy campaigners stand accused of violating the emergency pandemic decree by joining a protest last month calling for the release of their children.

Lt. Col. Phitsanu Kerdthong of Chana Songkram police said today that they have summoned several participants over the vigil held at the Supreme Court. The news came to light after student protest leader Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, who was recently freed on bail after contracting COVID-19 behind bars, today said her mother was called in for questioning. Panusaya published a police summons alleging that Suriya Sithijirawattanakul and other mothers violated public health measures by exceeding 20 people.

Lt. Col. Phitsanu said he was too busy to comment on their cases further. 

Panusaya, who has risen to become a movement icon, wrote that the accusations didn’t make sense.

“My mom was summoned because she joined the moms’ protest by standing still as a symbolic expression to ask for the release of me and other activists. They maintained social distancing without any close contact with others,” she wrote of the event, photos of which showed participants masked and keeping distant. “My mom doesn’t understand what she is guilty of because she just wanted the release of her child. … I don’t understand it either, mom.” 

Reached for comment Wednesday afternoon, Lt. Col. Phitsanu Kerdthong of Chana Songkram police said they have also summoned other participants in the protest for violating the decree. He said he was too busy to comment further.

The April 28 protest was organized by pro-democracy group Resistant Citizen.

Since enacting the emergency decree in the early days of the pandemic last year, the military-backed government has leaned on it a tool to suppress public opposition, especially calls for royal reforms. Panusaya and other movement leaders have been charged with sedition as well as a draconian royal insult law which was resuscitated last year.  

The government’s continuous extension of the law, which grants officials absolute power to take any actions deemed necessary, has been criticized as a means of muzzling dissent rather than protecting health.

Panusaya was released May 6 on a bond after 59 days behind bars awaiting trial on those and other charges. She was freed after going on a hunger strike along with fellow activist leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, who was released five days later.

Word that the high-profile figure had contracted the disease behind bars fed helped pressure prison officials to come clean about the virus’s rampant spread through the incarcerated.

Related

Thailand mulls early release, home confinement to stem prison outbreak

Student activist leader ‘Rung’ granted bail after 59 days in jail

 

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