1 Year of “Run Against Dictatorship” with 8 Ongoing Lawsuits, keeping an Eye on the Constitutional Court’s Deliberation on Public Assembly Act

1 year anniversary of “Run Against Dictatorship”, running activity aims to send out political messages. It was held simultaneously in different regions over the country on Sunday, 12 January 2020.

From the follow-up of Thai Lawyer for Humans Rights “Run Against Dictatorship” was organized in 49 locations, at least 39 provinces in all regions of Thailand. Some provinces organized activities in multiple locations or hours with participants ranging from ten to ten-thousands of people as in Bangkok.

Among the government restrictions from carrying out such activities, even after the activities, the authorities also proceed the charges against the organizers and those believed to be organizers of “Run Against Dictatorship” activity, at least 16 cases in many areas.

Posters of Run Against Dictator activities from various locations.

There are 14 cases cited for the failure to notify the authorities of the public assembly, in accordance with the Public Assembly Act, B.E. 2558, a total of 18 people has been charged. After one year has passed, those cases are still pending.

In numbers of defendants, half of which pledge guilty to avoid a burdensome lawsuit, they voluntarily pay fines to a competent official or in Court, in order to settle the case. The fines were fixed ranging from 400 Baht up to 5,000 Baht, up to the discretion of the competent officials and the Court in different areas.

While there are 8 other cases, with a total of 12 alleged offenders, the accused in all of these cases affirmed to defend themselves, since they see that “Run Against Dictatorship” is a sports activity, which got exemption under Public Assembly Act that the notification is not required. Moreover, some of them asserted that they were just a participant in the activity, not an organizer.

Out of all 8 cases, only the case of Run Against Dictatorship in Nonthaburi that there was defended on the trial until the Court of First Instance sentenced a fine penalty of 3,000 Baht. The Court deemed that defendants were qualified as organizers of public assembly since there were words of invitation to join the activities. However, there was no adjudication regarding the legal interpretation issue in this case on whether there is an exemption for this type of sports event under the Public Assembly Act or not. There needs to be a follow-up to this case of whether there will be an appeal to the court verdict or not. (TLHR did not give legal assistance to this case).

The other 7 pending cases, all of which are still pending in the Court of First Instance.

1-2. Case in Nakhon Phanom and Phang-Nga, the hearing of evidence has already been conducted, however, defendants submitted a petition to the Court, requesting to forward the case to the Constitutional Court to determine whether the content of the Public Assembly Act under Section 10 paragraph 2 and Section 28 which stipulated that the person who encourages or begs another by any means to attend a public assembly on a specific date, time and place, shall notify the authorities, contradicts the Constitution B.E. 2560 or not. Also, whether it imposes an unreasonable burden and violated people’s rights and liberty or not. Resulting in the Court ordered a suspension of the proceeding in these two cases to awaiting the Constitutional Court’s deliberation.

3. Similar to the case in Buriram, defendants submitted a petition, requesting for the Constitutional Court to determine in the similar matter before the hearing of evidence. As a result, the Court temporarily suspended the trial of these three cases. Initially, the Constitutional Court had accepted the petition, however, the Court has not ruled.

4. Case in Kalasin, Piyarat Jongthep or “Toto”, the alleged offenders, awaiting the hearing of witnesses in Kalasin Provincial Court on the date of 19-21 January 2021. However, It is needed to be followed up whether there would be an adjournment due to the covid-19 situation or not.

5. The case of Run Against Dictatorship in Bangkok, which has the most participants, are still in trial proceedings. The alleged offender is “Ball” Thanawat Wongchai, the organizer of the activity. This case was prosecuted at Phra Nakhon Nuea Municipal Court and designated the date of hearing of evidence on 21-23 April 2021.

Run Against Dictatorship’s atmosphere

6. Case in Nakhon Sawan, there was an additional prosecution in late 2020, before the period of prescription (1 year). This case was different from cases in other provinces, since official authorities accused the organizer of 4 charges, as follows, failed to notify the authority, refused to comply with official orders, created a nuisance, and caused traffic obstruction. For the charge of refusal to comply with official orders, the punishment is imprisonment not exceeding 10 days. In this case, Nakhon Sawan Municipal Court designated the date for the evidence inspected on 2 February 2021.

7. The last case was recently issued a prosecution order in early 2021, which is the case of Run Against Dictatorship in Chiang Rai, which has the most accused of 5 people in total. Read together with reports before running activity took place, this case was filed to the Chiang Rai Municipal Court one week before the period of prescription ended. The Court designated the next date of giving testimony on 7 April 2021.

In the year 2021, keep an eye on the cases of “Run Against Dictatorship” activity group, in terms of determination by the Constitutional Court regarding whether the content in the Public Assembly Act, B.E. 2558 contradicts the Constitutional law or not, and various court’s deliberations of whether these sports activities fall under the scope of public assembly or not.