In February 2022, even without big rallies organized, political persecutions against political expression persisted. For instance, at least 10 new cases of Section 112 violations, cases of political assembly, which the accused have been receiving summoning warrants from the police for breaking the Emergency Decree, and cases of previous rallies such as the Car Mob, assemblies in front of prisons to call prisoner’s rights of bail, and assemblies calling for the issue of environment and community rights.
According to the TLHR’s database, from the start of Free Youth’s rallies on 18 July 2020, to 28 February 2022, at least 1,787 individuals have been prosecuted from participating in political rallies and political expressions in 1,027 cases, including 274 minors who are under 18.
When compared to statistics from January 2022, there is an increase of 20 individuals accused in 18 cases (only counting those who have never been prosecuted previously). Prominent activists are still additionally pressed charged against. Some of them have been charged collectively more than 10 charges. Some activists are currently facing up to 30-40 charges.
If all repeating accused individuals are counted in multiple cases by lining up the individuals. The prosecution will have taken place as many as 3,491 times.
Statistical numbers of people prosecuted under charges can be divided according to charges, as follows:
- “Lese-Majeste” or Section 112 of the Penal Code: at least 173 individuals in 186 different cases.
- “Sedition” or Section 116 of the Penal Code: at least 116 individuals in 37 different cases
- Violation of the Emergency Decree: At least 1,444 individuals in 623 cases (counting from May 2020, when the Decree was first used against demonstrators or political activity participants), which are divided in 24 cases during the declaration of a serious emergency situation in Bangkok.
- The Public Assembly Act of 2015: at least 107 individuals in 75 different cases.
- The Computer Crime Act: at least 119 individuals in 134 different cases.
- Contempt of Court: at least 34 individuals in 18 different cases.
Of the 1,027 cases mentioned previously, 173 cases have been concluded. In most of these cases, the accused individuals settled for a fine in the investigating process or in court, because the cases are punishable by fines in nature. Among the rest of the cases, 7 had been dismissed by the court, or the public prosecutors will no longer pursue the charges, which are still few.
February 2022 have been marked by the following important events, which set the significant situation as follows:
A rise of at least 10 cases of violation of Section 112, with almost 100 cases prosecuted
In February, there are reports of prosecutions of violation of Section 112, which adds 4 new individuals accused, and 10 additional cases, making the total of prosecuted cases to at least 186.
The reason for having more cases than individuals accused is because an individual can receive multiple charges of the same crime. In the case of “Somphol,” a 28 year-old man who was arrested twice and accused of “Lese-Majeste” 6 times total from different police station in Pathumthani, Nonthaburi, and Bangkok. “Somphol” is accused of defacing the royal portraits of Rama X with red paint.
Further, Nonthaburi Police Station had requested an arrest warrant for Shinnawat Chankrajang, who was accused of violating Section 112 for the 5th time, for giving a speech about the transfer of crown property during a rally at the clock tower at Nonthaburi Pier on 4 February 2022.
Other cases are found in Kampangpetch, where residents accused Facebook and TikTok users. The police are slowly sending out summon warrants. Among those who received the warrants include “Thida,” a university student from Chiang Mai, whose case was filed at the Kampangpetch City Police Station, and “Paul,” an employee of a private business in Bangkok, whose case was filed at Khanu Woraluksaburi Police Station in Kampangpetch. Both individuals must follow court orders in a province that is not their residence.
The prosecutor office has so far submitted at least 97 cases of violation of Section 112, 13 of which are new cases, and none of the cases has been dismissed.
While the witness examination process has begun, the public also must keep an eye on trials. In the past month, it is found that the court ordered closed door trial in some cases, such as the cases of the discarding of Rama X’s portrait frame into a canal at Nonthaburi Provincial Court, and the Court ordered not allowing observers to take notes during trial, which has an effect on a fair judicial process.
In February, the Court slowly released Ratsadon 2020 pro-democracy leaders on bail, but the bails come with conditions such as limitations on their political expression, curfews, and tracking electronic moitoring (from the cases of Pai, Mike, Penguin, and Arnon), which means there are no political prisoners who are detained during judicial process. However, there is a political prisoner who is held until the sentence is over like Ms. Anchan.
Cases of alleged violation of the Emergency Decree increase by no less than 10
Despite not having large rallies in the past month, the prosecution of the violations of the Emergency Decree continues. The police consistently issued summon warrants for rallies, adding 10 more cases overall. For instance, the Car Mob in Sakon Nakhon, in which the Sakon Nakhon Police Station recently started prosecuting organizers and participants, totaling 6 individuals in 3 cases, separated according to the days of the events in August 2021.
As for the cases from rallies in front of Bangkok Remand Prison that called for the right to bail for political prisoners at the end of December 2021, the Prachachuen Police Station had issued summon warrants to 28 individuals in 3 cases. Among the 28 summoned, 3 were youths below 18 years of age who participated in the “อยู่เป็นเพื่อน ย้ำเตือนความยุติธรรม” (Staying as a friend, calling for justice) during New Year Countdown to 2022.
Furthermore, there had been summon warrants issued against participants of a rally organized by the group P-Move and Save Bang Kloi Coalition in mid-January to the beginning of February. The warrants were issued by Nang Loeng Police Station for alleged violations of Emergency Decree of 16 individuals in 3 cases. One of the warrants was issued to a minor whose age is below 18. It is important to note that the rally was not directly politically-motivated.
The Emergency Decree was not designed to explicitly control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It has been almost 2 years since it was first used, and largely as a tool to prosecute and accuse individuals of political participation. This is why the number of cases reaches up to 623 cases. Among these cases, 7 were dismissed by the prosecutors, and 2 were dismissed by the civil courts. These cases are still in the minority when compared to all of the pending cases awaiting judicial process.
The cases have created problems for 1,444 activists and ordinary people who have been accused, some of whom were accused multiple times. The cases also use up a lot of resources and budget from the justice system, which come from the people’s taxes, who will have to endure the process for many more years.
2 more cases of Contempt of Court, including “Penguin” case against the Constitutional Court
In the beginning of 2022, prosecutions of contempt of court and insulting court still persist. 6 members of Thalufah group were accused of writing on the walls and pictures in the Criminal Court while they were held in the decisions in a room. In this case, 3 of the members were dismissed due to lack of evidence, but the remaining 3 were found guilty and imprisoned to 1 month. In consideration of their plead of guilty, the Court reduced to 15 days of imprisonment and 15 days of detention. The case is now undergoing in an appeal.
Another is a case of 3 individuals (activists and nonactivists) accused of throwing paint into the Criminal Court during a rally on 23 December 2021. The case is postponed for hearing.
Yet another case is of “Penguin” Parit Chiwarak, who was accused of contempt of the Court against the Constitutional Court by the Thungsonghong Police Station. It is important to remark that “Penguin” was held in prison during this time. The accusation was made in regards to his 2 social media posts criticizing the Constitutional Court’s decisions in December 2021.
The prosecutions of these cases reflect the Court’s role which has become involved with many decisions regarding political cases in the past year. The decisions so far have intensified the people’s expressions and criticism toward the justice system as well. Observation Contempt of Court and Insulting Court charge must be continued as they have important implication.