A Month after October 14: three times increases of public assembly cases, 175 people prosecuted and charged with Section 116-the Emergency Decree

Since 13-14 October 2020, the demonstration of “the People’s Party 2020” has become more intense along with the greater level of “suppression” by the government officials including the mass arrest since 13 Oct: the declaration of severe state of emergency, the detention of protest leaders for longer than 2 weeks, and the ceaseless issuance of arrest warrants to prosecute the cases involving the demonstrations.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has previously reported the statistics of cases since the demonstration of Free Youth’s rally on 18 July until 10 October 2020. It is reported that at least 65 people were prosecuted in a total of 23 cases related to the political demonstrations.

However, the number of cases has changed dramatically from October to the beginning of November. According to the data, documented by TLHR, from July 18 to November 13, 2020, there were at least 174 people in 75 cases were prosecuted for political demonstrations. (Including those received arrest warrant but have not yet to be present at the police station to be informed of allegations)

Within one month, there were 52 reported cases, or three times greater than the reported statistics from July to September. While the number of people being prosecuted is 2.7 times greater. It has not included the various cases of the protest leaders and participants being prosecuted over the past months.

Despite the increase of statistics on the number of lawsuits and people charged from political gatherings in October, the arrest and the issuance of arrest warrants were from the previous demonstrations since July. For instance, on 6 November, the protestors have just been informed of charges from the rally on July 27 in Samutprakarn province. As of November 15, there were at least 19 cases charged in relation to the demonstration from July to September. Some were also arrested or received warrants in October from previous demonstrations since July.

It is reported that since the demonstration on October 13, 2020, the officials prosecuted at least 33 cases related to political demonstrations. The tendency of prosecutions was that the small and large demonstrations held in Bangkok and its vicinity is greater than the demonstration held in the provinces. However, there were reports on the numbers of prosecution on those participating in the demonstrations held in other provinces.

The political cases can also be considered in several issues as follows:

  1. Courts in various areas issued at least 81 arrest warrants related to the demonstration, divided into 54 arrest warrants issued in cases charged under Section 116 of Thai Criminal Code, 3 arrest warrants issued in cases charged under Section 110 of Thai Criminal Code, and 17 arrest warrants issued during the declaration of severe state of emergency. The rests were arrest warrants on other charges or the cases of the activist practicing the non-violent resistance by not reporting themselves per the summon warrants issued by the police officers. Consequently, the officers made a request to the court to issue the arrest warrants later.
  2. In the past month, the officials arrested at least 56 people at the demonstration site without the arrest warrants, which was at the Democracy Monument on October 13 and during the declaration severe state of emergency between October 15-16. At the same time, the officials arrested at least 4 people without arrest warrants and were not at the places of incidents. This counts as unlawful arrests, including arrests of those accused of spray painting of “three-finger salute” in front of the Chiang Mai Police Station and of those accused of spray painting under the Rama 10 royal portrait in Pattaya. In the latter case, the police officers submitted a motion for pre-trial detention to the Court which was later denied due to the unlawful arrest without arrest warrants.
  3. Among the total number of lawsuits related to demonstrations, at least 46 people in 14 cases were accused of violating Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code. The cases are charged from the speeches of the protest leaders on the monarchy reform and other discussions related to the reformation; all of which are used as accusations. In some assemblies, the speakers were accused of a similar charge even though they did not give a speech directly related to the issue of monarchy reformation, for example, the assembly at Tha Phae Gate in Chiangmai province on August 9, 2020. Nine individuals, including university students, were accused of committing the same offenses as Arnon Nampa and thus were charged with similar charges even though they did not give a speech related to the monarchy. Also, in the Free Youth demonstration on July 18, 2020, allegations were made on 15 speakers with similar charges even though they did not give speeches on monarchy reform.
  4. Among the total number of lawsuits related to demonstrations, there were at least 134 people in 35 cases who were charged with the breach of Emergency Decree; at least 13 cases occurred during the declaration of severe state of emergency in Bangkok (from 15 October at 4 a.m. to 22 October at 12 a.m.) Meanwhile, other lawsuits were the breach of Emergency Decree declared since the spread of COVID-19 which has not been revoked until present. Charges with the Emergency Decree have been used to prosecute the people who joined political assembly continuously despite the government and the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)’s claim that an extension of the provision over the past 8 months was not related to the politics and assembly. If the number of lawsuits charged with the Emergency Decree from public assemblies is counted since May 2020, there are at least 43 cases as of November 15, 2020.
  5. In addition, it was found that there were 10 cases charged with the Public Assembly Act B.E. 2015 and there were 8 cases charged with both the breach of Emergency Decree and the Public Assembly Act B.E. 2015. Since August, even though the Prime Minister had issued a regulation allowing people to exercise their rights to assemble in compliance with the requirements prescribed in the Public Assembly Act, it was found that, in the enforcement of the Public Assembly Act, the police officials still accused people both of violating the Emergency Decree and the Public Assembly Act. This resulted in the greater limitation of the rights to assemble compared to when the officials did not enforce the Public Assembly Act during the spread of pandemics.
  6. Of the 75 political assembly cases, it was found that they occurred in at least 18 provinces, with at least 46 cases in Bangkok and its vicinity, at least 14 cases in Northern and at least 10 cases in Northeastern Thailand.
  7. Student protest leaders and activists are likely to be charged with a large number of lawsuits and had been sporadically detained, and thus putting a burden of litigation on them. They had to report themselves continuously during the various steps of criminal procedure. Since the Free Youth’s demonstration on July 18, 2020, main protestors were accused in many lawsuits as follows:
    Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak has been accused in 14 cases.
    Panuphong “Mike” Jadnok has been accused in 12 cases.
    Arnon Nampa has been accused in 9 cases.
    Chonticha Jaengraew has been accused in 9 cases.
    Panasaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul has been accused in 6 cases.
    Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa, Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, Jutatip Sirikhan, Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon have been accused in 5 cases.These figures are counted only after the Free Youth demonstration. If counting back to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) era, the prominent leader such as Parit has been accused in 26 cases while Arnon has been accused in 23 cases.
  8. In prosecution processes, in addition to the continuous prosecution of prominent protest leaders, there was also the selection of “the targeted person” which was in the surveillance list of the authorities. Those in the list were prosecuted, for instance, in the case of the two former members of Dao Din group who were issued summon warrants and were informed of allegations from allegedly participating in the September 19-20 rally. However, they did not even participate in the demonstration on that day. Nevertheless, the authorities used the unclear photos taken in the demonstration to identify them as suspects.“Waen” Natthida Meewangpla, a volunteer nurse in the rally, was issued a summon warrant before the authorities decided not to prosecute her after listening to her testimony. Also, the case of Thanawat Wongchai, a political activist who did not give a speech and was not a part of rally organizers, was informed of the breach of Emergency Decree in 3 cases from participating in the demonstration in Northern Thailand.

If considered the news stating that the National Security Council (NSC) had made assessment on the demonstration on November 10 was weakened, along with the proposal to the government to allow the demonstration and then “use the law to prosecute the participants which will weaken the demonstration later,” it can be said that this framework resulted in the prosecution, as mentioned above, characterized as the use of “law” and “judicial process” as political tools in response to the political goal. It is to suppress and to stop political expression and demonstration by putting burdens on those who oppose the government. The processes are similar to the NCPO era. Thus, this practice is neither “law and enforcement” under the Rule of Law nor using the judicial process to create “justice.”