“Arnon” determined to fight his legal ethics examination from prison, Apiwat Khanthong had filed against him on monarchy reform speech

On 3 February 2022, the Lawyers Council under the Royal Patronage scheduled a legal ethics examination for Arnon Nampa. The examination came as a result of his speech on the monarchy reform at a 3 August 2020 rally at the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Road. Today, Ratsada Manuratsada — Arnon’s attorney — attended the examination on behalf of Arnon. The accuser, Apiwat Khanthong, however did not show up without prior notification given.

Ratsada Manuratsada filed a request with the Investigation Committee stating that  Arnon asks to defend the case himself. Even though he is currently detained in prison, he wishes to attend every hearing of the Investigation Committee to present the strategies and bring forth evidence to his case. The Committee therefore set a new appointment for 7 April 2022 at 10:00 am, by means of a teleconference or video conference with Arnon. If he is not yet released then, he will attend the conference from prison. 

If Arnon is found guilty of his conduct, he will face three types of penalties per Section 52 of the Lawyers Act B.E. 2528 (1985): (1) probation, (2) prohibition of practice as a lawyer for a period of not exceeding three years, or (3) removal of name from the lawyers’ register.

Timeline of Arnon’s legal ethics examination

On 7 August 2020, Deputy Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Apiwat Khanthong acting on behalf of Amporn Na Takuathung and Co. filed a complaint with the Lawyers Council. The complaint accuses Arnon of misconduct, “distortion of the truth, defamatory speech and incitement causing damage and hatred towards the monarchy in order to cause national divisions…,” allegedly amounting to a violation of lawyer’s ethical obligations.

On 21 August 2020, the Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) submitted an open letter containing 266 signatures of legal professionals to request the Council withdraws the petition made by Apiwat to remove Arnon’s name from the lawyers’ register. The letter cited Apiwat’s filing procedures as inconsistent with the Council’s regulation.

On 13 January 2021, the Lawyer Ethics Committee of the Lawyers Council appointed three members to the Investigation Committee to specifically look into Arnon’s case.

On 20 January 2021, Arnon received a notice from the Lawyers Council of his alleged misconduct and the set-up of the Committee.

On 17 February 2021, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) published an open letter to the Lawyers Council which urges it to drop all allegations against Arnon. The ICJ believes that the examination would unduly interfere in Arnon’s work as a lawyer, including in representation of clients, and serve to impair the exercise of his human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.

On 11 May 2021, Arnon submitted his defense statement to the Lawyers Council.

On 11 May 2021, Arnon filed an objection to the appointment of the Investigation Committee members — with Dr. Wichian Ruchithamrongkul as chairman — as Dr. Wichian is listed as number 24 on the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s Announcement No.1/B.E.2562 (2019) on the Reserve List of the Selection of Senators per the Constitutional Organic Act on Installation of Senators B.E.2561 (2018).

On 18 June 2021, the Lawyer Ethics Committee of the Lawyers Council voted unanimously to dismiss Arnon’s objection.

On 3 August 2021, Arnon filed an appeal against the Committee’s dismissal dated 18 June 2021.

On 24 May 2021, the Lawyers Council postponed the first appointment as Arnon was still in detention but he wished to attend all hearings and present the evidence to the Committee himself. This stems from Arnon being refused provisional release during the proceedings of a case on the 19 September 2020 protest.