Court dismisses activists’ demand for damages

Court dismisses activists’ demand for damages

A group of students detained at the Pathumwan police station on May 22, 2015 report to police on June 24, when they also filed a complaint against the police for their alleged mishandling for the arrests. (Bangkok file photo)

The Southern Bangkok Civil Court has dismissed a case in which 13 student activists demanded 16.5 million baht in damages from police, the army and the Prime Minister’s Office for causing damages to them while they were in custody 2½ years ago.

On Nov 22, 2015, the students organised a symbolic activity to mark the first anniversary of the 2014 coup in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre in Siam Square. 

The students claimed in their complaint that security officials had fenced off the area on that day, forcing them to hold the activity outside. The officials then detained them for 10 hours at Pathumwan police station with no authority since they were not informed of the charge or questioned. The assets of some of them were also damaged while they were in custody. 

The court on Monday reasoned security officials had acted legitimately when the disbanded the activity.

“While the assembly of the plaintiffs was peaceful and protected under the constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the charter has Section 44 by which the chief of the National Council for Peace and Order issued an order curbing freedom of assembly. The plaintiffs, therefore, could not hold a political assembly,” the court said.

When they defied that order, security officials could forcefully detain them in line with the NCP chief’s order, the court said.

While they were at the police station, their communication devices were not seized. Their lecturers could still visit them, it added.

The court concluded the detention was therefore legitimate and any damage caused to the plaintiffs was the result of their resistance to the order. The court subsequently dismissed the case.

Rangsiman Rome, one of the plaintiffs, said his group would appeal the ruling.

“The NCPO does not allow officials to take us to the police station. Several of us were also injured so this is not a normal arrest. If we allow the case to end like this, many officials are free to do several things without being held accountable,” he said.