Thai authorities released a junta-critic from detention on 16 March 2016.
Sarawut Bamrungkittikhun is the administrator of the Facebook page “Peod Praden (Raising the Issues),” which publishes information and comments openly critical of the military government under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The junta has ruled Thailand for almost two years.
The page is currently inaccessible.
Over 30 military and police officers allegedly took Sarawut from his residence in Surat Thani province in southern Thailand on 9 March 2016, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR). In media interviews, Deputy Head of the Public Relations Centre of the NCPO Col. Piyapong Klinphan denied that the military had knowledge of Sarawut’s case and maintained that the authorities operate transparently.
Until Sarawut’s release, his relatives were unable to locate and contact him. According to reports, he was taken to an army base in Bangkok and his mobile phone and laptop were confiscated.
TLHR “has found the deprivation of liberty against an individual by the military officer invoking the Order of the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) No. 3/2015 which allows the holding in custody of an individual for not longer than seven days without an arrest warrant, in an undisclosed location, and without contact with family, a deprivation of guarantee to right to liberty and an arbitrary detention, which is a breach of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).” (“Statement on the Enforced Disappearance of Sarawut Banrungkittikhun”)
The mobile phone and laptop were returned upon his release. There were no charges filed against him.
TLHR released a statement: “TLHR is pleased to hear Sarawut has been released safely. Nevertheless, the incidence, again, attests to the pattern of holding in custody of an individual in an undisclosed location and the denial of their right to contact relatives as well as the refusal to reveal the whereabouts and fate of the detainees. The release can certainly not right the wrongful act of detention in breach of human rights principle.” (“Public Statement: Sarawut Bamrungkittikhun released from military custody”)
The unlawful detention of Sarawut sends a signal that this government does not tolerate criticism causing problems for social media users who tap these platforms to discuss current affairs. Over the past years, the intermediary liability clauses of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2007 have restricted mainstream media including online forums — which serve as venues for debates. NCPO Order No. 103, which prohibits criticism of the regime, has further limited the space for expression.