The U.N. human rights office has called on Thailand to release 14 student activists arrested for holding a peaceful rally and charged with sedition.
The 14 arrested on Friday were also charged with violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings for taking part in an anti-coup rally in Bangkok.The military that staged a coup last May has banned political rallies of five people or more.
The students, who will be tried in military courts, could face up to 7 years in prison. They are among a small group of activists who publicly oppose the junta, which came to power in a bloodless military coup in May 2014.
The U.N. Human Rights Office for South East Asia on Tuesday also asked the government to review its use of laws that limit freedom of expression and assembly.
“The United Nations Human Rights Office for South East Asia (OHCHR) urges the Government to promptly drop criminal charges against students who have been arrested in Bangkok for peacefully demonstrating in public and release them from custody,” said Tuesday’s statement.
It added: “Now more than one year on [from the coup], despite pledges by the Government to promptly restore the rule of law, restrictions on fundamental freedoms remain in place.”
Meanwhile, the European Union described the arrest and prosecution of the students as a “disturbing development”.
“The arrests of 14 students on the basis of charges brought against them for peacefully demonstrating… is a disturbing development,” it said in a statement released on Tuesday.
It added: “Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms must be upheld, and military courts should not be used to try civilians.”
Deputy government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the government does not have a problem with the students but they must obey the law.
Additional reporting from Associated Press
This article first appeared on Asian Correspondent