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Thammasat student faces sedition charge

Thammasat student faces sedition charge

Pathum Thani house used by high-profile leaders of pro-democracy movement raided, computers seized

Thammasat University student Niraphorn Onkhao, left, is taken to the Technology Crime Suppression Division following her arrest during a raid on a house used by student activists in Pathum Thani. (Photo supplied)
Thammasat University student Niraphorn Onkhao, left, is taken to the Technology Crime Suppression Division following her arrest during a raid on a house used by student activists in Pathum Thani. (Photo supplied)

Police arrested a university student on charges of sedition and computer crimes during a raid on a house used by student activists in Pathum Thani on Friday.

The search of the house at the Nuantong housing estate in Khlong Luang district on Friday morning was carried out by officers from the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD).

Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and Benja Apan, two key figures in the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), normally stay at the house. Niraphorn Onkhao, a third-year liberal arts student at Thammasat University, was the only person in the house when the officers arrived.

Police said Ms Niraphorn was wanted on an arrest warrant issued on Wednesday by the Criminal Court on charges of violating Section 116 of the Criminal Code, or sedition, and the Computer Crime Act. The officers seized computers and mobile phones for further examination.

Ms Niraphorn was subsequently taken to the TCSD in Bangkok for interrogation. Officers were preparing to take her to the Criminal Court to seek her detention and would oppose bail, said Pol Col Pichet Khampeeranon, chief of TCSD sub-division 3.

Thai media reported that Ms Niraphorn protested during the arrest and insisted she had never received a summons. She reportedly told officers that the warrant they showed her did not mention any specific incident to justify her arrest.

The UFTD has been one of the main groups involved in political protests that began in mid-2020. The activists have been demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a full rewrite of the constitution and reform of the monarchy.

More than 1,100 people have been prosecuted for political protests between July 2020 and August 2021, with more than 400 charged in August alone, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported recently.

The organisation said it knew of at least 1,161 people who were being prosecuted for alleged crimes related to political gatherings and expression since the movement began on July 18, 2020.

Of the total, 143 are minors, aged under 18.

Just over 900 people faced charges of violating the emergency decree that was imposed to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. The group said 124 people were facing charges of lese majeste or defaming the monarchy under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, and 107 faced sedition charges under Section 116.

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