TLHR Overall Situation in December 2020

Summary

In December 2020, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) documented 58 cases related to human rights violations and incidents in provinces in central and southern Thailand: Bangkok, Pathum Thani, Chonburi, Nontaburi, Samut Prakan, and related to Krabi, Songkhla, and Pattani. The number includes 4 cases of arbitrary detention, 2 cases of restriction of freedom of expression, 46 observations and monitoring of court trials, and 6 cases of other forms of harassment and intimidation.

In northeastern Thailand, TLHR has documented 21 cases related to human rights violations and incidents in provinces including Khon Kaen, Roi Et, Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram, Maha Sarakam, and Nakhon Panom. The number includes 4 cases of restrictions of freedom of assembly, 8 cases of restrictions of freedom expression, 7 observations and monitoring of court trials, and 2 cases of other forms of harassment and intimidation.

In northeastern Thailand, TLHR has documented 14 cases related to human rights violations and incidents in provinces including Lamphun, Phrae, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Phayao, Chiang Mai, Phitsanulok, and Nakhon Sawan. The number includes 3 cases of restriction of freedom expression, 9 observations and monitoring of court trials, and 2 cases of other forms of harassment and intimidation.

Human rights situation amidst the Covid-19 pandemic

The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has begun, while the Emergency Decree was still routinely used for political activities.

In December, the government still enforced the Emergency Decree to control the Covide-19 pandemic for the ninth consecutive month. On 19 December 2020, the Ministry of Public Health reported new 548 cases of the new strain of the Covid-19 among migrant workers at the wholesale shrimp market in Samut Sakhon province. The number had soared rapidly from the date when the first case was identified in a 67-year-old shrimp vendor on 17 December 2020.

As a result, the end of December saw a new wave of the Covid-19 outbreak in several
provinces, especially in central and eastern part of the country, for example, at an illegal
casino in Rayong province.

Following the mentioned event, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)
announced stricter measures, empowering the provincial governors to contain the local
spread, order the opening and closure of businesses in line with the Communicable Disease
Act, and pass regulations prohibiting protests and gatherings at crowded places or any acts
causing disorder.

The TLHR found that the violation of the Emergency has been cited to accuse and prosecute students and citizens who took part in political activities. From May until the end of December, at least 175 people in 64 cases were charged with the said offense, as follows:

– 41 cases under the Emergency Decree aimed to control the spread of Covid-19
– 23 cases during the announcement of the state of serious emergency in Bangkok (from
15 October, 4 a.m. to 22 October, 12 p.m.)

The strict measures related to political gatherings were enforced even on 31 December 2020, as riot police made an arrest of 16 people during the shrimp sale event by We Volunteer (WeVo) group to support shrimp farmers, who had been affected by the government’s Covid-19 measures, at Sanam Luang and the 14 October 73 Memorial. The detainees also included 2 young people. All of them were brought to Border Patrol Police Region 1 in Pathum Thani province to hear the charges under the Emergency Decree, Communicable Disease Act, and illegal use of sound amplifiers.

At the same time, there were other attempts to impede other public events that had political implications. One example was the Big Mountain Music Festival 2020 in Pak Chong district, Nakhon Ratchasima province, which was banned on 13 December 2020 while the event was alleged ongoing on grounds of lacking disease control measures and excess crowd. However, people observed that some guest artists had conveyed political messages at the concert, i.e. flashing the three-finger salute and carrying a fake corpse. On the other hand, the Minister of Public Health insisted that the banning had nothing to do with politics. Later, the Provincial Communicable Disease Committee in Nakhon Ratchasima filed a complaint against two organizers of the GMM Grammy Public Co. Ltd. for violating the Communicable Disease Act and Emergency Decree.

1. Overall human rights situation


The number of people accused with section 112 rose steadily following the

authorities’ change of approach

Since late November, police officers have begun to issue warrants summoning protest leaders to charge with section 112 of the Penal Code, also known as the lèse-
majesté. This approach has recently been resumed after switching to a different one in 2018.

This included both existing cases with charges under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code (“Sedition”) as well as new cases. In the course of one month (30 November to 31 December), the TLHR has found at least 37 people in 23 cases who have been charged with Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (“Lese Majeste”) due to political involvement. Among this figure, 12 cases were a result of complaints filed by “citizens”. We will see an increasing trend associated with the use of section 112 in political cases in 2021.

Another important phenomenon this month concerns the prosecution of youths with
section 112 charges, for instance, the case of Saichon [alias], a 16-year-old young adult who joined the rally on 29 October 2020 wearing a crop top to walk on a red carpet in front of the Hindu Temple on Silom Road. His case was reported by Ms. Warisanan
Sribowornthanakit, the admin of “Cheer Lung” Facebook page.

Although the accused youth had obeyed the warrants and travelled to hear his lese majeste charge, the police inquiry officers brought him to the Central Juvenile and Family Court to have their arrest and prosecution process examined. The said step was unnecessary and not prescribed by law, yet carried out only when an arrest warrant was
issued or an arrest was made of young people. As a result, the Court justified his detention as it was the case containing more than a 10-year imprisonment sentence, and set security at 8,000 Baht.

The key protest leaders who had arrest warrants with section 112 charges are as
follows: Parit Chiwarak (12 cases), Arnon Numpa (8 cases), Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul (6 cases), and Panupong Jadnok (5 cases).

In light of this renewed wave of lese majeste application, the Court has yet to issue
arrest warrants and the inquiry officer has not sought detention for the suspects. On the
contrary, they were released with no security, which differed from the previous decade,
when those accused with the same charge were detained with no right to bail, thus,
suffering from a lengthy process.

The prosecution of anti-government protestors remains widespread
At the beginning of December, the “Kana Ratsadon” protests to oust the government
and call for a new constitution and monarchy reform, remained fierce. A big rally was held on 2 December after the Constitutional Court had ruled that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was found not guilty of residing in an army guest residence after retirement. Later, the protests de-escalated and reduced in frequency due to the new year’s holidays and the new wave of the Covid-19 outbreak.

In parallel to this, local police officers were constantly issuing summon warrants for
suspects who took part in political gatherings following the Free Youth rally. This past
month, there were at least 40 cases in which leaders and protesters were charged with
offenses under lese majeste, sedition, the Emergency Decree, the Public Assembly Act, Cleanliness Act, Sound Amplifier Act, as well as other petty crimes, such as traffic
obstruction and public ways obstruction.

Moreover, We Volunteer guards were arrested twice this month for dismantling the
razor-barbed wires that the authorities had installed to block the protest at Urupong
Intersection on December 7, 2020, and helping transport shrimps to be sold at Sanam Luang on December 31, 2020.

According to the TLHR observation, from the Free Youth rally on 18 July 2020 until the end of 2020, at least 245 people in at least 149 cases were accused of allegedly participating in political activities. Among this number were seven youths under 18 years old.

Students demanding rights and democracy still face censorship and harassment
from schools

This month still witnessed activities by students. One particular event was “December 1 Say Goodbye to Uniform” campaign, where students wore casual clothes to school on December 1, 2020, to assert freedom over their own clothes and the right over their own body. It has been reported that some students who were wearing casual clothes faced various forms of harassment by teachers, including being forbidden to enter school or threatened to deduct behavioral scores.

Students’ political expression was also met with censorship from schools and
authorities. For example, three students in Udonthani province who flashed the three-finger salute during the national anthem on 9 December 2020 had their parents summoned by the teacher. However, the students did not inform their parents, insisting that they did not do anything wrong, while the school saw the three-finger salute during Thai national anthem as a violation of the school rules. In addition, the teacher also forwarded the information of the students in question to the police.

On December 18, 2020, another incident happened at Kaen Nakhon Wittayalai School
in Khon Kaen, where around ten students organized a political parade during the school’s
color sports event. Five banners with texts, such as stop harassing the people, abolish
lese majeste, and free uniform, were prepared for the activity. As the parade was about to leave the stadium, two teachers instructed it to halt and barred the exit, while two police officers stopped the students who were making their way to the gate by pulling on their bodies and stepping on the shackles on the political prisoner’s uniform. Moreover, the teachers were attempting to take the banners from the students. In the end, the parade had to leave through another exit gate and could not return to the stadium afterwards.

On 11 December 2020, students from Nareerat School in Phrae showed political
expression during the color sports event, by performing card stunt showing the number 112 and cheering “very brave, very good, thank you”. After someone had published the pictures of the activity, the police went to meet with the school vice principle to ask for the involved students’ names. The vice principal, thus, gave the names and telephone numbers of several students to the police.

Activists and citizens were monitored in many provinces during royal visits

In December, the TLHR has found that during the royal duties in various different
provinces the police and security officers were monitoring the movement of students and
activists who were politically active. Attempts were made to prohibit them from organizing activities during the King’s visits, including:

In Chiang Mai, King Rama X was set to hand diplomas to the graduates from the
Rajabhat Universities in the northern region between December, 8 and 11, 2020. By the end of November, the local police officers in Chiang Mai and neighboring provinces took to keep watch of at least 30 students, university lecturers, activists, performing artists, and citizens, including TLHR lawyers’ network. Their actions involved visiting the residence to talk to the individuals directly, approaching their neighbors, inviting them to a talk over coffee, and making a phone call to find out the whereabouts. Almost all of them were warned by the authorities not to organize any activities during the King’s Chiang Mai visit.

In Pattani, King Rama X was scheduled to visit the Pattani Central Mosque on 17 December 2020. According to Prachatai News, at least 20 students and political activists
received a house visit by police and military personnel or a phone call requesting them to
refrain from any activities during the royal visit.

In Roi Et, King Rama X was scheduled to offer monk’s suits on 24 December 2020. At
least 7 activist members of the Free Roi Et and Roi Et Students for Democracy group were targeted by police officers by approaching professors at the Technical College to ask for students’ personal data without informing reasons, calling school teachers to obtain information about political activities, or visiting the family. On top of this, the students were also closely watched on the date of the visit.

The trial of Wanchalerm’s enforced disappearance case has been initiated in
the Cambodian Court for an investigation process. The case is awaiting
Investigating Judge’s opinion.

On 8 December 2020, Sitanan Satsaksit, the sister of Wanchalerm Satsaksit, a Thai
exile in Cambodia who was kidnapped on 4 June 2020, traveled to give verbal statements to the Investigating Judge of the Court of First Instance in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia in order to verify the incident of enforced disappearance. She served as a witness through chats on Line application and provided evidence that the perpetrators were armed while carrying out the act and that Wanchalerm had lived in Phnom Pehn prior to the incident. In the next steps, after the Investigating Judge has completed the investigation, he will submit the case file back to the responsible Royal Prosecutor. If the Prosecutor deems the investigation inadequate, he/she may return the case file to the Investigating Judge for additional investigations. On the other hand, if the Royal Prosecutor finds the investigation to be adequate, he/she will forward the finalized case file including an opinion about who the perpetrator is to the Trial Judge.

 

Key cases updates

Court dismissed the section 112 charge of “Ja New’s Mother”, as her one-word
reply “Jah” signifies an end to the conversation, not an agreement.

On December 22, 2020, the Criminal Court dismissed the case of Ms. Patnaree or “Ja
New’s mother”, a political activist, with charges under section 112 and Computer-related
Crimes Act from using a one-word rely on her private chat. The Court ruled that only Burin’s messages were considered an insult to King Rama IX and the heir apparent (then), who had already been sentenced by the Bangkok Military Court. The defendant’s message is seen as a general word, not considered an insult or defamation. When looking at the context, it appeared that Burin had shown a one-sided opinion, while the defendant had not paid any attention to it as seen from a quiet response.

The one-word reply “Jah” was merely expressed to acknowledge and end the conversation. The fact that the defendant had used silence in the communication demonstrated that she did not want to carry on the conversation. “Jah” was the shortest way to show that intention.

Moreover, “Jah” did not imply an agreement and the plaintiff’s hearing failed to prove the
case. This case lasted more than four years since it was brought to the military court during the NCPO rule.


The Court dismissed the case of the leaders of the MBK39 “the group of people

who want to vote”, as calling for an election was within the scope of the
constitution.

December 25, 2020, the Bangkok South Criminal Court dismissed all charges for the
nine leaders of the MBK39 or the rally of the people who wanted to vote, on the
Pathumwan Intersection Skywalk in front of MBK Shopping Center on 27 January 2018. The Court established that the gathering was peaceful and without arms. As for the question of the activity is in a 150-meter radius of a royal establishment, two plaintiff’s witnesses had testified that the measurement from Sa Pathum Palace was 148.5 meters in distance and all of them had admitted not knowing the activity was within the 150-meter radius and not seeing a warning sign. The Court had the reason to believe that the defendants had no intention to commit the crime.

Furthermore, after listening to the defendants’ speeches, the Court ruled that it was
not considered sedition according to section 116. Although parts of the speeches alluded to certain individuals’ personal life, the said persons could file a legal complaint on it separately.

As for the part where the speakers encouraged people to protest in case the
government postponed the election, it simply indicated that the protestors did not wish to see the postponement of the election, and not mean to incite people to rebel in spite of the use of vulgar language. The plaintiff’s witnesses and evidence were inadequate to
confirm the accusations.

The Criminal Court dismissed the section 116 (“Sedition”) cases of Pantasak and Jaturon during the NCPO rule

On December 16, 2020, the Criminal Court dismissed the case of Pantasak Sithep, a
member of the Resistant Citizen group, who walked from his residence in Bang Bua Tong to report himself at Pathum Wan Police Station while calling for a stop to the trial of civilian cases in the military court in March 2015. He was accused of violating the NCPO announcement, section 116 of the Penal Code, and the Computer-related Crimes Act. The Court listened to all plaintiff’s witnesses’ uniform testimonies that the defendant had not
used a sound amplifier and caused disorder and that the act was peaceful. Moreover, the

NCPO announcement on the banning of political gathers had later been annulled by the
NCPO order no. 22/2561. Lastly, as the defendant’s statement post did not contain false
information, it was held that he had an intention as an ordinary citizen to participate in a
political activity protesting the deliberation of civilian cases in a military court.

On December 22, 2020, the Criminal Court acquitted the case of Jaturon Chaisaeng,
the former strategic chair of the Thai Raksa Chart Party, who had spoken against the coup d’état in front of the international press in May 2014. The Court ruled that he was not guilty of violating section 116, whose offense must explicitly lead to a transgression of national laws.

After the press conference, there was no evidence of people coming out to cause the disorder. Besides, the content of the speech did not contain incitement of anti-government
activities.

Both cases lasted more than five and six years, respectively, due to a prolonged
process under the military court. They were later transferred to and concluded in a civilian
court.

The public prosecutor prosecuted a former monk who participated in a protest and was arrested by a 2016 warrant with section 112 charge (“Lese Majeste”) as a result of a Facebook post on the passing of the King Rama IX

On 15 December 2020, Mr. Issaret (alias), a 45-year-old suspect of section 112 and
Computer-related Crimes Act case was prosecuted by the public prosecutor in Nakhon
Phanom province. The case motive went back after the death of King Rama IX, when
the Nakhon Phanom Provincial Court issued an arrest warrant for Issaret on October 18, 2016.

During that time, there were conflicts of opinions among people on the topic of monarchy, which led to a “witch hunt” as well as broad prosecution of citizens with section 112. According to the TLHR, this was the first section 112 case in two years that made it to the court, after the government had switched to a different approach in 2018.

As Issaret had denied all accusations, the Court, thus, set a date for another hearing
on December 29, 2020. In the meantime, he was granted bail with the position of a village head and title deeds worth 200,000 Baht in total in security, which was the same as during the investigation process. After Issaret had re-affirmed his denial of accusations, the Court proceeded to schedule a date for a witness hearing on 14 January 2021.