Sedition charges for a Facebook photo expressing symbolic support for Thailand’s political opposition shows the military junta’s utter disregard for peaceful dissent, Human Rights Watch said today. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta should immediately end its abusive use of the draconian sedition law against peaceful critics and dissenters.

On March 29, 2016, authorities arrested 57-year-old Theerawan Charoensuk for posting her photo holding a red plastic bowl inscribed with Thai New Year greetings from former Prime Ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra. Chiang Mai military court released her on 100,000 baht (US$ 2800) bail pending a military trial. If found guilty, Theerawan could face up to seven years in prison. “The Thai junta’s fears of a red plastic bowl show its intolerance of dissent has reached the point of absolute absurdity,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “When military courts try people for sedition for posting photos with holiday gifts from deposed leaders, it’s clear that the end of repression is nowhere in sight.”

Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan defended the charges in a media interview on March 29: “The charge [against Theerawan] is not arbitrary or groundless. She violated the law. Tell me if you think what she did was not provocative or led to division in the society. We don’t want to arrest anyone. But those people should listen to our warning not to undertake political activities.”