Thai Court Rejects Activist’s Lawsuit Against Coup Leader

Thailand’s criminal court rejected a lawsuit filed by a political activist against junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha and 26 other military and government officials for staging or supporting last month’s coup.

The court said in a statement today that the activist, Chalad Worachat, had no right to file the case because he was a private citizen and the case involved national security issues. Chalad, who is also on a hunger strike, had alleged that the military’s May 22 takeover was an act of treason that also insulted and threatened King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

“If the country doesn’t have a prime minister from an election, I will continue to fast until I die,” Chalad told reporters after filing the case. He has been fasting in front of Parliament for the past 19 days.

Prayuth said he seized power in order to restore order after seven months of political protests aimed at toppling the government of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra led to more than two dozen deaths. He has since tried to stifle all dissent, tearing up most of the constitution, outlawing criticism and protests against the junta and ordering hundreds of people to report to authorities.

Chalad, 71, is known for his high-profile hunger strikes, including a 1992 fast against Suchinda Krapayoon, an unelected prime minister who took power in a coup the previous year. Suchinda was later forced to step down after the military led a deadly suppression of protests against his rule. In 1994, Chalad again went on a hunger strike to call for changes to the constitution, which at the time gave the military broad powers.

Chalad told reporters outside the court today that he would refuse any order to report to the National Council for Peace and Order, the official name of the junta that took power in the nation’s 12th coup since 1932.

Prayuth has called for understanding, saying the coup was necessary in order to avoid potential civil war and to “return happiness to the Thai people.”

— With assistance by Chris Blake

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