Thailand: Halt prosecution of pro-democracy activists and protesters

His Excellency Somsak Thepsuthin
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice,
The Government Complex,
Chaeng Wattana Rd., Laksi Bangkok 10210
Thailand

Thailand: Halt prosecution of pro-democracy activists and protesters

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global alliance of civil society organisations (CSOs) and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. Founded in 1993, CIVICUS has more than 10,000 members in more than 175 countries throughout the world.

We are writing to you with regards to our concerns around civic freedoms in Thailand. Since the beginning of 2021, scores of activists and critics have been charged for lèse majesté, sedition and other violations. Cases we are particularly concerned by include:

  • On 19 January 2021, a woman was jailed for 43 years for criticising the royal family online. Anchan Preelert, a food seller and former civil servant, faced 29 counts of “insulting the monarchy”, or lèse majesté, under Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code and provisions of the Computer Crime Act[1]. She was arrested in January 2015 and detained for nearly four years until November 2018, when she was released on bail. Anchan was initially detained incommunicado in a military camp for five days before her transfer to a detention facility. She was repeatedly denied bail.
  • On 9 February 2021, the authorities indicted[2] pro-democracy activists Arnon Nampha, Parit Chiwarak, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, and Patiwat Saraiyaem on lèse majesté charges for their onstage speeches during a September 2020 political rally. Each accused faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. The activists were also charged with sedition under Article 116 of the penal code, which carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison. The four have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The Bangkok Criminal Court also denied bail requests and ordered the activists into pretrial detention. The order could condemn them to detention for years until their trial is concluded. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Parit Chiwarakan were granted bail on 23 April and 11 May 2021 respectively.[3]
  • On 8 March 2021, three activists - Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa - were charged with lèse majesté and denied bail in connection with a demonstration in Bangkok in September 2020. The activists were also charged with sedition. Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa have since been released on bail. 15 other activists were also charged for their involvement in the pro-democracy protests, including with sedition or organising illegal gatherings, and granted bail. [4]
  • On 1 April 2021, prosecutors indicted five pro-democracy activists on charges of ‘attempting to harm the queen’ during a street demonstration in October 2020, during which some protesters shouted slogans critical of the monarchy. The five – veteran activist Ekachai Hongkangwan, Mahidol University student Bunkueanun Paothong, Suranart Paenprasert and two others - pleaded not guilty in a Bangkok criminal court to violating section 110 of the criminal code, which states that whoever attempts an act of violence against the queen or the royal heir faces 16-20 years’ imprisonment. All five deny any wrongdoing and were released on bail. Queen Suthida was not in any evident danger in the incident, which occurred when a limousine carrying the queen passed through a small crowd of protesters.[5]
  • On 24 May 2021, the Central Juvenile and Family Court informed 17-year-old Thanakorn Phiraban that he had been indicted on lèse majesté under charges related to his speech at a pro-democracy rally in December 2020 in Bangkok.[6]

In February 2021, UN human rights experts said lèse majesté laws have “no place in a democratic country.” They expressed serious concerns about the growing number of lèse majesté prosecutions and harsh prison sentences that courts in Thailand have meted out to some defendants.[7]

We are also concerned about attempts to restrict protests which resumed in February 2021 and the use of excessive force by the security forces.

  • On 28 February 2021, authorities barricaded[8] a road facing a compound of army barracks in an attempt to block pro-democracy protesters who had marched from Victory Monument in Bangkok to military barracks on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, housing the prime minister’s residence. Razor wire was placed to prevent pedestrians from using the bridge in front of the barracks. The Thai police shot rubber bullets and used water cannon and tear gas against the protesters; in response, protesters threw bottles and other objects at the police. At least 16 people were injured.[9]
  • On 20 March 2021, scores of people were injured and arrested in Bangkok after police used water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to break up a rally by pro-democracy protesters calling for the release of detained activists, constitutional changes and reform of the nation’s monarchy.[10] The organisers of the rally had said they planned to have demonstrators throw paper planes with messages over the palace walls. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a watchdog organisation, reported 32 detained. Among those arrested were seven unaccompanied minors. They faced six charges, which include breaking the Emergency Decree’s ban on mass gatherings, causing public disturbance and resisting arrests. At least 33 people were reported injured, including 13 police officers and two reporters were hit by rubber bullets.

These actions are inconsistent with Thailand’s international obligations, including those under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Thailand ratified in 1996. These include obligations to respect and protect fundamental freedoms which are also guaranteed in Thailand’s Constitution.

As such, we urge Thai authorities to take the following steps as a matter of priority:

  • Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against the pro-democracy protesters and lift all restrictions on the exercise of their human rights;
  • Pending their release, ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and have regular access to lawyers of their choice, their family members and to medical care;
  • Revoke emergency measures imposing restrictions on the rights to freedom of assembly and expression
  • Create a safe and enabling environment for activists, human rights defenders and other members of Thailand’s civil society to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly without intimidation, harassment, arrest or prosecution

We express our sincere hope that you will take these steps to address the human rights violations highlighted above.

Yours sincerely,

David Kode
Advocacy & Campaigns Lead.
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Cc:
Mr. Wongsakul Kittipromwong
The Attorney General of the Kingdom of Thailand

His Excellency Don Pramudwina,
Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand

His Excellency Sek Wannamethee, Ambassador and Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] ‘Thai woman jailed for record 43 years for criticising monarchy’, BBC News, 19 January 2021 

[2] ‘Four Thai Activists Denied Bail Ahead of Next Month's Trial’, VOA News, 9 February 2021 

[3] ‘Thai Court Grants Bail to Pro-Democracy Activist on Hunger Strike’, Benar News, 11 May 2021

[4] ‘3 More Thai Pro-Democracy Protest Leaders Jailed on Royal Defamation Charges’, Benar News, 8 March 2021

[5] ‘Thailand pro-democracy activists charged over protest near queen's motorcade’, The Guardian, 1 April 2021

[6] ‘Thailand: Child Prosecuted for Insulting Monarchy’, Human Rights Watch, 27 May 2021

[7] ‘Thailand: UN experts alarmed by rise in use of lèse-majesté laws’, OHCHR, 8 February 2021

[8] ‘Police clash with protesters, rubber bullets, tear-gas fired’, Thai PBS, 28 February 2021

[9] ‘Thai protesters, police clash near PM’s residence’, Al Jazeera, 28 February 2021

[10]‘Thailand protests: scores injured as police clash with pro-democracy activists’, The Guardian , 21 March 2021


Civic Space in Thailand is rates as Repressed by the CIVICUS Moitor 

 

Say something here...
You are a guest
or post as a guest
Loading comment... The comment will be refreshed after 00:00.

Be the first to comment.