The third wave of Covid-19 in Thailand has begun since April and continued until now. The violation of the Emergency Decree is still constantly used by authorities to target political leaders and activists, even though no cluster infection has been linked to any political activities so far.
According to the TLHR monitoring of the accusation of political expression, at least 695 people in 374 cases have already been affected as a result of their political involvement and opinions since the “Free Youth” rally on 18 July 2020 until the end of June 2021. Among this number were also 43 youths of under 18 years old, 159 women, and 35 members of the LGBTQ group (as far as we know).
Compared to the figures as of the end of May 2021, this month saw an increase of 17 individuals and 31 cases (only counting those who had not been charged before).
1. Section 112 cases surpass 100 and pro-monarchy” group accuses many people of section 112, sends threats, and creates Google Maps exposing personal data.
Moreover, at least 6 people in 8 new cases have been accused of the “lese majeste law” or section 112 of the Penal Code. As a result, since the end of November 2020 after the 2-year hiatus, at least 103 people in 100 cases have faced the lawsuits.
Two of the section 112 cases last month included Ukrit ‘Kong’ Santiprasitkun, a student member of the Ramkhamhaeng Network for Democracy, and Saharat Charoensin. The two were arrested by TCSD officers and accused of posting about illness of members of the royal family in May 2021.
Later, Ukrit was re-arrested by Bang Kaew police officers after having been granted bail from the previous case. This case is a result of a complaint filed in May 2020 because he had shared a post about an anti-monarchy protest in front of a hotel in Germany.
Furthermore, Kanlaya, a company employee based in Nontaburi, was summoned by Su-ngai Kolok Police Station to hear the charge in Narathiwas province, because someone had filed a complaint against her there for sharing and posting about the monarchy. It has been reported that the complainant had also initiated a legal action against several other Facebook users at this police station.
At the same time, several Ratsadon leaders that had earlier been released on bail faced new section 112 lawsuits filed by members of the group “Legal Aid Center for Victims of Online Bullies”. This includes Arnon Nampa, who posted criticisms against section 112 provision and the monarchy, Parit Chiwarak, who posted criticisms against the inappropriate use of Sanam Luang area and the royal family. The two were accused of section 112 case no. 12 and 20, respectively.
In the past month, an alleged pro-monarchy group called “Legal Aid Center for Victims of Online Bullies” collected personal data of at least 130 internet users and filed complaints with section 112 charges at the Technology Crime Suppression Division.
2.Trials for contempt case take place weekly. The Court has already convicted 3 cases in a row.
In June, the contempt proceedings progressed strongly with hearings taking place every week. At least 18 people in 14 cases have already been accused of this law for participating in assemblies criticizing the judiciary since the Free Youth Rally until the end of May 2021. Unlike other criminal cases, the Court can conduct a contempt trial and pass a judgment directly bypassing the investigation or prosecution process.
Last month, hearings were held for 8 cases, 3 of which have already been ruled guilty of all charges. This includes the case of Chinnawat Chankrajang, an activist from Nontaburi New Generation Network, who was accused of joining a protest calling for the right to bail for Ratsadon leaders in front of the Criminal Court on 29 April 2021. The Court gave him a 4-month imprisonment sentence without suspension seeing that the speech alluding to the court contained rude language. Similarly, Pisitkun Kuanthalaeng, an activist from the Free Arts group who was accused of the same activity, received a suspended imprisonment sentence of 2 years. Adisak Sombatkum, one of the defendants in a #19September rally case who was accused of touching the shoulder of a Department of Corrections officer who was standing and blocking him in the courtroom, was fined 500 Baht.
In other two cases, Benja and Natchanon, two Thammasat students, submitted a request asking the Criminal Court to forward the cases to the Constitutional Court to rule whether the contempt charge was constitutional or not. We shall see how the situation unfolds.
In the meantime, the TLHR has found from trial observation that the Court has imposed overly strict measures in courtrooms, including limiting the number of audience or requiring a preapproved permission. In all trials, the Court forbade notetaking claiming it was to keep order. These measures were likely to undermine the principle of a free and fair trial.
Apart from contempt of court, 4 youths have been charged with insult of court for joining the #2May rally in front of the criminal court. 3 of them already went to hear the charges at the Phaholyothin Police Station.
3. State authorities continuously monitor and harass people who posted monarchy-related content and political activists
This month, the TLHR has also received reports that state authorities approached least 18 citizens who expressed monarchy-related or political opinions at their homes. These incidents occurred in all of the regions of the country, including provinces of Khon Kaen, Maha Sarakham, Surin, Lampang, Chiang Mai, Nan, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Ayutthaya, Supanburi, and Prachuap Khiri Khan.
In Khon Kaen, at least 8 politically active citizens received authorities at their home prior to Princess Sirindhorn’s scheduled program on 11 June 2021. Among them were 4 students/youths and 3 community members active in environment issues. In Nan, authorities visited the home of a university lecturer before Princess’ schedule on 21 June 2021. Likewise, people who share posts or texts about the monarchy are also subject to regular house visits. For instance, a student of Thammasat University, Lampang Campus, received a visit from police and village head, who then asked him his parents to come meet later. They claimed that the said student had shared content about the King Rama X and asked him to remove it and refrain from doing it. In Ayutthaya, a company employee was spied by the police, who also approached him at home twice. The officers asked him to stop sharing monarchy-insulting posts, as well as threatened him that they would bring him to the police station to press charges.
4. The violation of the Emergency Decree is still constantly used by authorities to target political leaders and activists, even though no cluster infection has been linked to any political activities so far
Since the declaration of the emergency situation until the end of June 2021, the TLHR found that at least 511 people in 162 cases had been accused of breaching the Emergency Decree provisions, including:
- 138 cases under the Emergency Decree aimed to control the spread of Covid-19
- 24 cases during the announcement of the state of serious emergency in Bangkok (from 15 October, 4 a.m. to 22 October, 12 p.m.)
In June, police filed additional complaints with Emergency Decree charges against participants of anti-government protests that took place before this recent surge, including 4 protesters of the 23 February protest in front of the Police Headquarter, 16 participants of the extra-parliamentary vote of no confidence event on 20 February in front of the parliament, 4 participants of the water pouring ceremony for Prayuth activity on 15 April in front of the House of Government, as well as 23 protesters of the Thai Mai Ton rally led by Jatuporn Prompan, former red-shirt leader who was also accused of violating the Emergency Decree for organizing a rally at Santiporn Park in the beginning of April 2021.
In addition, 5 people were accused from taking part in the minority-rights-related #SaveBangKloi activity in front of Bangkok Arts and Culture Center on 22 February 2021.
In the past month, the TLHR also observed that 2 protesters belonging to the Vocational Students Group to Protect the Monarchy were charged with the violation of the Emergency Decree from the activity in front of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center on 14 March 2021. The said case was considered the first legal action against pro-monarchy group members.