The general-secretary of an emergent Thai political party that ran on a strong stance against the country's ruling military junta testified to police on Wednesday after authorities accused him of having threatened national security by posting a video on social media that was critical of another party's forced dissolution.
Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, whose Future Forward party received the third-highest number of ballots in the Mar. 24 general elections – 6.3 million votes – faces up to 12 years in prison if found guilty.
The 38-year-old constitutional law scholar has been charged with one count of computer crimes and a contempt of court count for posting a video on Facebook in which he criticized the junta for banning the opposition Thai Raksa Chart party shortly before the elections.
He denied both charges.
Observers from the United Nations – as well as renowned human rights activist Angkhana Neelaphaijit – were present to monitor Piyabutr's questioning.
Article 14 of Thailand's Computer-Related Crime Act contemplates up to five years in prison for those who publish false information that undermines national security or creates panic among the public, while the contempt charge carries up to seven years' imprisonment.
Piyabutr must now submit his formal denial in writing by Apr. 25.
After leaving the police station, the politician told local media that he believed in the country's judicial system and in the police's impartiality.
On Apr. 3, police had summoned Future Forward leader and prime ministerial candidate Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit on charges of sedition and other crimes punishable with a maximum jail sentence of seven years.
In his case, the charges were linked to a 2015 student protest against the military junta.
Future Forward, founded last year by Thanathorn, a 40-year-old billionaire businessman, was the biggest surprise in the recent elections – the first held since the 2014 coup d'etat – as the new outfit became the third-largest party in parliament.
Before and after the elections, Thai authorities have cracked down on the party with various accusations that could endanger its survival if the Election Commission were to dissolve it as it did with Thai Raksa Chart.
Thailand faces political uncertainty as the military-appointed Election Commission has yet to release the election's official results.
They are expected to be published on May 9, following the upcoming coronation ceremony of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.