Prosecutions under “Contempt of Court and Insulting the Court” spike in 2021

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)’s documentation records, at least 18 people have been charged with “Contempt of Court” for political reasons in 14 cases since the Free Youth Group’s first demonstration on 18 July 2020. Among the 14 cases, 12 of them are linked to the accused’s involvement in activities calling for political detainees’ rights to bail. 

In comparison, during a period of five years from February 2014 to August 2018, 20 people were reportedly charged under the “Contempt of Court” charge in nine cases. 

For the charge of “Insulting the Court,” at least 24 people have faced this charge for their political expressions in 4 cases since the Free Youth Group’s first demonstration. 

From 2020 to early 2021, people from many areas of Thailand stood up to exercise their rights and freedom of expression to call for democratic changes in the country. In response, the government under the leadership of General Prayut Chan-o-cha decided to initiate lawsuits against those expressing their political opinions. As a result of this phenomenon, many people were held in detention while undergoing trials without bail authorization from the Court. 

The denial of bail requests for those facing politically motivated charges led to widespread criticisms of Thailand’s judiciary institutions. Activists held many events to demand the political detainees’ rights to bail in several provinces. This trend was the culmination of public criticisms of the Court’s roles in various dimensions during the current decade-long political conflict. 

This situation brought about the increasing enforcement of the charges of “Contempt of Court” under Articles 30 – 33 of the Civil Procedure Code and “Insulting the Court” under Article 198 of the Criminal Code. 

For Contempt of Court cases, the Court could initiate a hearing and punish the offender on its own. Even though the penalty under this offense contains both fines and imprisonment, its procedure does not require a police inquiry and indictment as in a standard criminal case. Under this law, the Director of the Administrative Office of the Criminal Court must serve as the accuser for all Contempt of Court cases. 

Meanwhile, the charge of “Insulting the Court” is processed in accordance with the standard criminal procedure. The inquiry officer issues a summons ordering the accused to report to the authorities and acknowledge their charge. Then the inquiry process or indictment will follow as prescribed by the Criminal Procedure Code. 

“Contempt of the Court” cases since the Free Youth Groups’ first rally on 18 July 2020.

No.Date of IncidentGrounds for ProsecutionAccused PersonAccuserCase Status
1.8 August 2020Delivering a speech during a rally demanding the follow up of the remand process for Arnon and Panupong at Ratchada Criminal Court’s staircase (1)Parit Chiwarak (1)Director of the Administrative Office of the Criminal CourtThe case was dismissed after the defendant declared apology statement
2.8 March 2021Taking photos inside of the trial room during an indictment hearing in the case of #19Sept.ReturnPowerToThePeople Rally at the Criminal Court (2)Shinnawat Chankrajang (2)
Anurak Jentawanich (3)
Director of the Administrative Office of the Criminal CourtThe Court of First Instance found them guilty, imposing a 500 Thai baht fine and 15 days imprisonment. The prison term has been suspended.
Attapol Buapan (4)The trial prosponed because the defendant came to ccontact with a COVID-19 patient.
3.15 March 2021Reading a statement criticizing the Court and declaring to go on a hunger strike inside of a Court room at Ratchada Criminal Court during the trial of #19Sept.ReturnPowerToThePeople Rally caseParit Chiwarak0Director of the Administrative Office of the Criminal CourtThe Court of First Instance convicted the defendant, imposing a sentence of 14 days imprisonment
4.8 March 2021Rally in front of Ratchada Criminal Court to give morale support to the pro-democracy activist leaders who were charged for alleged organizing the #19Sept.ReturnPowerToThePeople rally caseNawapon Tongam (5)
Lertsak Kamkongsak (6)
Director of the Administrative Office of the Criminal CourtOn 15 June 2021, the examination hearing for 3 witnesses from the prosecution.
The examination hearing of the defense’s witness was scheduled for 13 September 2021.
5.8 April 2021A defense lawyer got into an argument with the public prosecutor in the courtroomA lawyer (7)Director of the Administrative Office of the Criminal CourtThe Court of First Instance convicted the defendant, imposing a 500 Baht and ordering him to apologize the public prosecutor.
Should the defendant repeat the offense, the Court will file a complaint to the Lawyers Council requesting further disciplinary actions.
6.8 April 2021Nudging on a Department of Corrections official’s shoulder in the Courtroom during the trial of #19Sept.ReturnPowerToThePeople rally caseAdisak Sombatkam (8)Director of the Administrative Office of the Criminal Court (Somplaint filed by the Department of Corrections)The first witness examination took place on 8 June 2021. The next one will be held on 2 July 2021.
7.29 April 2021Participating in a rally and delivering a speech at Ratchada Criminal Court’s staircase while waiting for the outcome of bail requests of seven pro-democracy activist leaders.Benja Apan (8)Director of the Administrative Office of the Criminal CourtThe examination hearing took place on 21 June 2021. The defendant filed a petition to the Constitutional Court. The verdict hearing has been scheduled for 30 August 2021.
8.29 April 2021Participating in a rally and delivering a speech at Ratchada Criminal Court’s staircase while waiting for the outcome of bail requests of seven pro-democracy activist leaders.Shinnawat ChankrajangDirector of the Administrative Office of the Criminal CourtThe Court of First Instance convicted the defendant on 8 June 2021, sentencing him to four monts inprisonment without suspension. The appeal process is pending.
9.29 April 2021Participating in a rally and delivering a speech at Ratchada Criminal Court’s staircase while waiting for the outcome of bail requests of seven pro-democracy activist leaders.Natchanon Pairoj (9)Director of the Administrative Office of the Criminal CourtThe Examination hearing has been scheduled for 23 June 2021.
10.29 April 2021Participating in a rally and delivering a speech at Ratchada Criminal Court’s staircase while waiting for the outcome of bail requests of seven pro-democracy activist leaders.Pattarapong Noipang (10)Director of the Administrative Office of the Criminal CourtThe examination has been scheduled for 22 June 2021.
11.29 April 2021Participating in a rally and delivering a speech at Ratchada Criminal Court’s staircase while waiting for the outcome of bail requests of seven pro-democracy activist leaders.Pisitkul Kuantalaeng (11)Director of the Administrative Office of the Criminal CourtThe examination hearing has been scheduled for 18 June 2021.
12.29 April 2021Participating in a rally and delivering a speech at Ratchada Criminal Court’s staircase while waiting for the outcome of bail requests of seven pro-democracy activist leaders.Elia Fofi (12)Director of the Administrative Office of the Criminal CourtThe examination hearing has been scheduled for 13 July 2021.
13.30 April 2021Participating in a rally in front of Ratchada Criminal Court’s while waiting for the outcome of the bail requests of Parit who was detained while awaiting trialBenja Apan
Natchanon Pairoj
Director of the Administrative Office of the Criminal CourtThe examination hearing, tentatively scheduled for 16 June 2021, was adjourned becaused the defendant acknowledged their charge on the same day of examination hearing.
The new hearing date has been scheduled for 13 August 2021.
14.2 May 2021Particcipating in #2MayRally held by REDEM in front of Ratchada Criminal CourtSupakit Boonmahitanon (14)
Patcharawat Komonprasertkul (15)
(16), (17), (18)
Director of the Administrative Office of the Criminal CourtThe examination hearing has been scheduled for 1 July 2021.

“Insulting the Court” cases since the Free Youth Group’s first demonstration on 18 July 2020

No.Date of IncidentGrounds for ProsecutionAccused PersonAccuserCase status
1.29 April 2021Participating in a rally in front of Ratchada Criminal Court while waiting for the outcome of the bail requests of seven pro-democracy activist leadersBenja Apan (1)
Sinnawat Chankrajang (2)
Pisitkul Kuantalaeng (3)
Elia Fofi (4)
Pattarapong Noipang (5)
Natchanon Pairoj (6)
Paholyothin Police StationOn 11 May 2021, the police issued arrest warrants without having issued summonses first. Shinnawat, ,Pisitkul, and Elia were arrested under the warrants before the Court granted bail.

Benja, Pattarapong, and Natchanon reported themselves before the police showed them the arrest warrants. All of them received bail during the inquiry stage.
2.30 April 2021Participating in a rally in front of Ratchada Criminal Court while waiting for the outcome of the bail request for Parit ChiwarakNatchanon Pairoj
Benja Apan
Somyot Preuksakasemsuk (7)
Paholyothin Police StationPolice issued arrest warrants without having issued summonses first.
On 11 May 2021, Benja and Natchanon reported themselves to the police.
On 14 May 2021, Somyot reported himself and was granted bail during the inquiry stage.
3.2 May 2021Participating in a #2MayRally held by REDEM in front of Ratchada Criminal Court (those with arrest warrants)Supakit Boonmahitanon (8)
Weeraparb Wongsaman (9)
Poranut Noinongyao (10)
Patcharawat Komonprasertkul (11)
Jutathip Sirikhan (12)
Acting Sub.Lt.Ittikorn Subkrachang (13)
Preechaya Sanitsampan (14)
Suthita Rattanawong (15)
Sopon Suraritthamrong (16)
Sarun Anurakprakarn (17)
Chatchai Kaedum (18)
Chonnakan Kuengmaibai(19)
Yongyut Hangnon (20)
Paholyothin
Police Station
Police officers issued arrest warrants without having issued summonses first.
On 14 May 2021, the defendants reported themselves before receiving bails during the inquiry stage..
4.2 May 2021Participating in a #2MayRally held by REDEM in front of Ratchada Criminal Court (those with arrest warrants)Sasalak, aka “Phum”, a 17-year-old (21)
Nat, a 17-year-old (22)
A 16-year-old (23)
A below 18-year-old (24)
Paholyothin
Police Station
On 23 June 2021, the first three accused acknowledged the charge in accordance with their summonses
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