Thai court makes first coup protest conviction

AP News
Posted: Jul 03, 2014 12:01 PM

BANGKOK (AP) — A court in Thailand on Thursday sentenced a man to two months in prison and a 6,000 baht ($185) fine in the first case to be concluded involving a protester against last month's military coup. The jail sentence was suspended because the man admitted his guilt.

A Bangkok district court found Weerayuth Kongkanatan guilty of violating a martial law statute making political gatherings of more than five people punishable by a jail term of up to one year and a fine of 20,000 baht ($615).

He had taken part in a protest by several hundred people in Bangkok on May 23, the day after the coup. Initial public protests against the takeover have faded in the face of the military's repression.

Weerayuth was tried in a civilian court, but the junta decreed on May 25 that future cases would be tried by a military court, with no opportunity for appeal.

"Today's guilty verdict in the case of a peaceful anti-coup protester in Thailand sets a dangerous precedent for freedom of assembly and contributes to the climate of fear under military rule," the human rights group Amnesty International said.

"While it comes as a relief that Weerayuth has not been jailed today, the verdict sends an alarming message that peaceful protest is not tolerated in Thailand," the group's Asia Pacific director, Richard Bennett, said in a statement. "This is likely to be the first in a series of planned trials of people who have voiced dissent against the army's rule. We're calling for it to be the last."