In March 2022, intensification of the political situation in Thailand still remains. Additionally, at least 10 individuals were accused of violating Article 112. Meanwhile, other accusations were gradually prosecuted in courts and witnesses were summoned to testify, as well as some cases had a verdict read. the Court acquitted four cases of the alleged violations of the Emergency Decree which means there has been no charges in which the defendants continue to fight the prosecution, and the court’s verdict did not convict the defendants.
From the TLHR’s close observation, from the start of Free Youth’s rallies on 18 July 2020, to 31 March 2022, at least 1,795 individuals have been prosecuted from participating in political rallies and political expressions in 1,045 cases, 275 of whom are under 18 of age. When compared to statistics from February 2022, there is an increase of 8 more individuals accused in 20 cases (only counting those who have never been prosecuted previously), with an additional of 1 individual under the age of 18.
If all repeating accused individuals are counted in multiple cases by lining up the individuals. The prosecution have taken place as many as 3,549 times.
Statistical numbers of people prosecuted under charges can be divided according to charges, as follows:
1. “Lese-Majeste” or Section 112 of the Penal Code: at least 183 individuals in 194 different cases.
2. “Sedition” in the Section 116 of the Penal Code: at least 126 individuals in 39 different cases
3. Violation of the Emergency Decree: At least 1,448 individuals in 629 cases (counting from May 2020, when the Decree was first used against demonstrators or political activity participants).
4. Public Assembly Act of 2015: at least 107 individuals in 75 different cases.
5. Computer Crime Act: at least 120 individuals in 136 different cases.
6. Contempt of the Court: at least 34 individuals in 18 different cases.
Of the 1,045 cases mentioned previously, 183 cases have reached a decision. In most of these cases, the accused individuals settled for a fine in the investigation process or in court, because the cases are punishable by fines in nature. Among the rest of the cases, 9 had been dismissed by the court, or the public prosecutors ordered non-prosecution, which are still few.
March 2022 have been marked by the following important events as follows;
At least 10 additional cases of alleged violation of Article 112; close observation required for bail conditions and revocation
In March, there were reports of prosecutions of alleged violation of Article 112, which added 10 new individuals accused, and 8 additional cases, making the total of prosecuted cases to at least 194.
Notable cases in this month include cases from the public poll at Siam Paragon Mall, which asked the people whether the royal motorcade inconvenienced them or not. There were 9 individuals accused in the case, among them were 2 individuals under the age 15 and 2 independent press personnels, who were live broadcasting the polling activity. All of them were processed at Pathumwan Police Station.
The police cited the accusations based on Article 112 and 116, but there is a lack of evidence on how the polling activity clearly violated the law. The accused reported themselves accordingly to the summon warrants, but the police officers still submitted detention motion to the Court. Despite the court’s order for the accused to be temporarily released, they were imposed of 4 bail conditions on top of the release which include the electronic monitoring anklet (EM). The condition was imposed on those who were accused of violating Article 112 for the first time.
The past month also saw at least 4 activists arrested and charged for violation of Article 112. The activists that had arrest warrants issued against are Shinnawat Chankrajang, Veha Saenchonchanaseuk, and Pimchanok Jaihong. Tantawan Tuatulanon, who was the only activist that was arrested without a warrant, was charged for live broadcasting the royal motorcade passing the UN headquarter.
In the cases of the 3 activists after being informed of their charges, the police still asked for temporary detention. Despite the court’s order to release the activist on bail, there were still conditions such as wearing the electronic monitoring anklet (EM) or an order for the activists to report to the court every 12 day as in the case of Pimchanok, who must report to the court in Chiangmai. However, in Veha’s case, who was accused of the violation of Article 112 for the second time, this time for sharing a Facebook post from FreeYouth’s page in August 2021 and sharing a New Year post in 2022. The court still yet have to issue an order of release despite having received 3 appeals.
Recently, the police have requested to cancel bails in the cases of activist from the Thaluwang group and Shinnawat Chankrajang, who will have to be cross-examined in April 2022, which means we must continue to follow this process further.
Activist leaders are still receiving further accusations. “Far” Phromsorn and “Poon” Thanapat received an additional accusation of violation of Article 112 each at Lumphini Police Station. Both were cited for participating and giving a speech at #ราชประสงคย์ กเลกิ112 (#RatchaprasongRealArticle112) rally on31 October 2021. Another is the case of “Bee,” “Rung,” and “Benja,” who were charged for creating post on the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration’s Facebook page by the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD).
Meanwhile, there were verdict delivered in March 2022 for at least 3 cases of violation of Article 112. The court have ruled to drop the charges. These were the charges of “Issares,” who created a post to question the decision to not coronate a new king after th death of Rama IX. The alleged violation of Article 112 charges was dropped as the court did not see that the post in question fit the description of the violation. However, one case will be prosecuted under the Computer Crime Act, which is the case of “Wutthipat,” who made a Facebook post questioning the death of Rama VIII.
Lastly is the case of “Narin,” who was accused of pasting the “GuKult” sticker onto the royal portrait of Rama X. The court have decided on the guilty verdict, and have sentenced the defendant to 3 years in prison, but the defendant have received a bail after appeal. The verdicts in different cases and what fits under the definition of violation of Article 112 will be further followed and observed.
The court have dropped 4 charges for violating the Emergency Decree, 1 non-prosecution order by public prosecutor, but still many prosecuted
In the Emergency Decree cases, the court began reading verdicts, and 4 of those cases have been dropped in March. The cases are #21OctobertoVictoryMonument on 21 October 2020, organized by Arnan Lumchan, Paisarn Chanparn, Susanna Tallek, and Wasan Glumthavorn. The four were accused of recklessly breaking the Emergency Decree. Another similar case is #KhonPayaoRejectPowder. In the cases mentioned above, the court have decided that both cases are peaceful gatherings which is in compliance with the rights under the Constitution.
Further, in the Payao case, the court have seen that there was an amendment according to the security section in the Emergency Decree of 3 April 2020, which nullifies the Emergency Decree in this case.
Another case that the prosecutors have dropped is the Car Mob on 1 August 2021 in front of Don Meung Airport. The prosecutors cited that the rally did not create a risk of COVID-19 infection, did not occur in tight space, and was organized according to the rights to assembly under the Constitution.
Presently, to TLHR’s knowledge, there has been no cases that the defendants decided to defend themselves in the Court and hereafter found guilty by the Court.
However, under the circumstances, prosecutors in many cases are gradually pursuing charges to the hearing process, which caused inconveniences to activists and rally participants. In the past month, prosecutors in many regions have issued orders to many rallies such as those of Khong-Shee-Moon Ratsadon who organized th #RallyWheretheWarrantIs, Car Mob in Korat, Car Mob in Patani, Car Mob in Krabi, or the rally at Bangna intersection in 2021.
Moreover, at the end of March, the government extended the Emergency Decree for another 2 months, which lengthen the use of the Decree to no less than 2 years and 2 months, and the Decree can be used to persecuted rally participants (See further: 9 observations and the 2-year use of the Eergency Decree against rallies).
Observation on the authorities during the royal motorcade
Another notable situation in March was the arrest of activists and youth activists during the royal motorcade. Other than Tawan, who was detained and arrested under the Article 112, there were also 5 activists and youth activists from Korat Movement group who were arrested after appearing near the Rajamankala Technology Institute University of Isaan while Princess Sirindhorn was scheduled to hand out diplomas. All the activists were detained for 7 hours before being released after being fined 2,000 baht each for resisting order from the officials.
In the case of “Get” Sophon, a member of the Mok Luang Rim Nam group, who was arrested near the Democracy Monument after officials found the individual with a sign saying “We are ready to co-exist with a monarchy that we can mention, criticizes. Long live the king.” The individual was detained and sent to the Police Bureau of Narcotics and was charged with resisting the order of ofiicials. “Get” denied the accusation and wanted to pursue the case.
The situation of harassment and targeting activists nd citizens continues to intensify during the royal motorcade as the royal family travel to oher provinces, and the officials are tightening on controls against freedom of expression. The situation continues to be an interesting topic to observe further