In the last month of 2021, political prosecutions still persisted as seen in the arrest of Chana villagers, members, and protesters, and the issuance of summon warrants against protesters partaking in #EqualMarriage protest, demanding legal rights for the LGBTQ group, and in protest calling for the abolishment of the lèse-majesté. It rendered a rise of prosecuted people, while public prosecutors constantly indicted cases related to political expression to the Court.
According to the TLHR statistics, at least 1,751 people in 985 cases have faced lawsuits for their political participation and expression since the “Free Youth” rally on 18 July 2020 until the end of December 2021. Among the people prosecuted, 272 concern minors under 18 years old
If people accused in multiple cases are counted more than once, the prosecution will have taken place as many as 3,337 times.
In comparison with November 2021, this month saw a rise of 67 prosecuted people in 28 cases. (only those who had never been charged or prosecuted before). Among the number, 5 of them are minors.
Statistical numbers of people prosecuted under charges can be divided to charges, as follows;
- “Lèse-majesté” or the Section 112 of the Penal Code: at least 166 people in 171 cases
- “Sedition” in the Section 116 of the Penal Code: at least 115 people in 37 cases
- Violation of the Emergency Decree: at least 1,415 people in 603 cases, which are divided into 24 cases during the declaration of a serious emergency situation in Bangkok and 529 cases involving the breaching of the Covid-19-related provisions.
- Public Assembly Act of 2015: at least 107 people in 76 cases
- Computer Crime Act: at least 112 people in 126 cases.
- Contempt of the Court: at least 26 people in 16 cases
Article 112 cases rises to 5 cases – public prosecutor expedited indictment of the cases to trial
In December, at least additional 4 people in 5 cases were reportedly prosecuted with Section 112. As a result, at least 166 people in 171 cases have faced the Section 112 accusation since November 2020, including 13 young people. Among these people were five people who are being detained and not granted the right to bail during trial, including Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Panupong Jadnok, and Benja Apan. Despite attempt to submit bail request for the four leaders including one last month, the court has repeatedly rejected them.
Key cases last month include the TCSD inquiry officer pressed charge against Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak in the prison in another case following a complaint accusing him of posting a text about a pro-monarchy group harassing young people and asking the monarchy to re-think its role. As such, the case has become the 23rd Section 112 case on Penguin, the highest in Thailand’s political history. In the past month, TCSD officers also arrested “Warunee”, a Phitsanulok citizen, pursuant to a warrant issued by the Criminal Court for allegedly posting a retouched image of the Emerald Buddha wearing clothes from Sirivannavari Brand. This case was brought by a member of the Royalist Group.
Among the existing Section 112 cases, the public prosecutors already forwarded 75 to the court, or 43% of the total cases. There has been none, as far as we are aware, that was not indicted by the public prosecutors. Even the case in Lampang involving the hanging of the banner with text “Royal Budget>Covid-19 Vaccines” that contains no element of offence under Section 112 was also indicted last month.
Constantly arrest and summon the Emergency Decree cases stemming from assembly
In the past month, the arrests of participants of public assemblies in Bangkok area and the issuing of summon warrants containing charges under the Emergency Decree continued to be an ongoing occurrence, with each case involving a large number of accused. For example, on 6 December 2021, 37 villagers and members of the Chana Rak Thin group #SaveChana, who held a gathering to follow up on the government’s promise to halt the construction of an industrial estate and deep-sea port, were arrested by riot police and charged with the violation of the Emergency Decree and other small offences. All of them had never been prosecuted before. Moreover, 31 of the people arrested and accused were women, including elderly ones.
The inquiry officer of the Lumphini Police Station also issued summon warrants for 20 protesters of the #EqualMarriage protest demanding legal rights for the LGBTQ group on 28 November 2021 at the Ratchaprasong Intersection, and for 17 protesters of the 12 December 2021 protest calling for the abolishment of the lèse-majesté at the Ratchaprasong Intersection to press charge with the violation of the Emergency Decree.
Meanwhile, the public prosecutor decided not to indict the car mob activist in Tak province finding the accusation not in the scope of the Emergency Decree. The participant wore a medical mask and kept distancing and the activity took place in an open space. Thus, the assembly did not contain risks of disease transmission. With that, a total of at least 6 political cases have resulted in non-indictment at the public prosecutor’s stage since 2020. Nevertheless, the number is microscopic accounting for merely 1% of the over 600 cases with Emergency Decree charges.
Meanwhile, the Dusit District Court acquitted Patsaravalee “Mind” Thanakitvibulphol, student and activist accused of violating provisions under the Declaration of the Serious Emergency Situation in Bangkok Area on the prohibition of assembly or unlawful gathering by participating in a protest on 21 October 2020 at the Victory Monument to march to the House of Government to hand a letter to the prime minister calling him to resign. This is the second case following the verdict of the Criminal Court to acquit pro-democracy activists who were accused of violating provision under the Emergency Decree in Udon Ratchathani. This is the trend to be kept an eye on in this coming year, 2022.
Court ruled guilty five contempt cases in a month
In December, various courts passed verdicts for five contempt of court cases, including that of Benja and Natchanon accused of the activity in front of the Criminal Court on 30 April 2021, that of five protesters of the 2 May protest by REDEM in front of the Criminal Court, that of “Joseph” an activist who cut his own wrist during the trial of the case of the protest in front of the German Embassy to demand the right to bail for fellow activists at the Bangkok South Criminal Court, that of Lertsak Kamkongsak and Nawapon Tonngam who got together to show moral support to activist leaders at the Criminal Court on 8 March 2021, and that of Pattarapong Noipamg a Thammasat student from the protest in front of the Criminal Court on 29 April 2021.
All of these cases were resulted from expressions to demand the right to bail for activist leaders, and all were ruled guilty by the courts. With the exception of the third case, where the accused decided to confess, all other cases underwent witness examinations that ended with the court’s conviction. Punishments inflicted included fine, suspended imprisonment sentence, suspension of the determination of punishment, and imprisonment and detention without suspension. Appeals are anticipated in many of these cases in the period to come.
In a contempt offence, the court is entitled to initiate the proceeding and inflict punishment on the offender by itself without an investigation or indictment. The process thus progresses quickly. Furthermore, the direct link between the contempt allegation and the act in the court creates a serious risk for the independence of the proceedings.