World Bulletin/News Desk
A Thai military court has charged 26 political opponents to the May 22 coup with terrorism and illegal possession of weapons, according to reports in Thai media Sunday.
The suspects will face trial before a military court at the end of October for charges that carry a maximum sentence of death.
Of the group, 22 people - including some hardline “Red Shirts,” supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who oppose the military and bureaucratic establishment – had been arrested by the military the day after the coup at a hotel in the northeastern city of Khon Kaen.
They were allegedly planning acts of violence in response to the seizure of power.
Four others were arrested later, with illegal arms caches being discovered once the investigation expanded.
The defendants’ lawyers have filed bail requests, but expressed doubt over their approval.
“It is likely the court will reject the request due to the seriousness of the charges,” said Winyat Chatmontree, secretary of the Free Thai Legal Aid organization providing pro-bono assistance to seven of the accused, as quoted by the Bangkok Post.
On May 25, the National Council for Peace and Order, the junta'a official name, empowered military courts to try cases against civilians accused of internal security offences and lese majeste, criticisms of the royal family for which offenders can face jail sentences of three to 15 years.
No appeal can be filed against a judgment by a military court.
Human Rights Watch and the Asian Human Rights Commission have considered the move a huge step backward for human rights in Thailand. The last time the country's military courts were used for civilians was in October 1976, after a massacre of left-wing students by ultra-right wing groups and border patrol police officers.
The autocratic character of the new regime has been appearing in sharper focus in the last days with coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha being appointed prime minister on August 21 by a 200-member National Legislative Assembly entirely hand-picked by the junta.
Chan-ocha currently holds the positions of junta chief, prime minister and army chief. His soon to be appointed government is expected to be composed at least a third of military officers.
A military spokeswoman rejected Friday calls for the lifting of martial law, imposed across the country on May 20, two days before the coup.
Colonel Sirijan Nga-Thong said during a regular briefing that “people are now able to lead normal lives” and martial law “only impedes people with ill intentions.”
The junta has promised "fully democratic elections" in October 2015 after the endorsement of a permanent constitution, which will not be submitted to a popular referendum.
Thailand's political crisis began in November when then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra faced a wave of opposition protests after her government pushed through an amnesty that would have lifted the 2008 corruption conviction against her brother ex-premier Thaksin, a divisive figure deposed in a 2006 coup.
Confronted by massive demonstrations, the government withdrew the bill, but the opposition alleged corruption by the government and Shinawatra family.
Yingluck dissolved the parliament December 9 and called February 2 elections, which were disrupted by the People Democratic Reform Committee, who want an unelected "people's council" to run Thailand until the political system is reformed.
She was then herself removed by the Constitutional Court on May 7 in relation to the transfer of a high-ranking civil servant in 2011. The May 22 coup removed the remaining ministers and dissolved the Senate, the only standing legislative assembly.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Ağustos 2014, 17:38