In June 2022, politically-motivated prosecutions remain intense. The number of those prosecuted under Section 112 (lèse-majesté) now exceeds 200. Meanwhile, there has been an increase in arbitrary detentions of those charged with lèse-majesté and other offenses related to the “Thalu Gas” demonstrations, resulting in over 22 individuals being detained pending trials.
Based on TLHR’s documentation (between 18 July – 30 June 2022), following the “Free Youth” rally, at least 1,832 individuals in a total of 1,095 cases have been prosecuted due to their expression and participation in demonstrations. This includes 282 individuals under the age of 18.
Compared to TLHR’s May statistics, there are 19 new individuals being prosecuted in 21 new cases (counting only those who have never been prosecuted before).
In total, there have been at least 3,641 prosecutions based on political activism, with many of the accused being prosecuted in multiple cases.
The main prosecutions can be categorised as follows:
1. The “lèse-majesté” offence under Section 112 of the Criminal Code: at least 203 individuals have been charged, totaling 218 cases.
2. The “sedition” offence under Section 116 of the Criminal Code: at least 125 individuals have been charged, totaling 39 cases.
3. Offences under the Emergency Decree: at least 1,464 individuals have been charged, totaling 642 cases (since May 2020 when first allegations against protesters and activists were made).
4. Offences under the Public Assembly Act: at least 107 individuals have been charged, totaling 75 cases.
5. Offences under the Computer Crime Act: at least 136 individuals have been charged, totaling 155 cases.
6. Offence related to Contempt of court (Section 31 of the Civil Procedure Code): at least 34 individuals have been charged, totaling 18 cases; and offence related to defamation of the court (Section 198 of the Criminal Code): at least 25 individuals have been charged, totaling 6 cases.
Out of the total of 1,095 cases, 197 cases have reached a verdict, the majority of which the accused agreed to pay a fine at the police’s stage or at the court. Out of the 197 cases, 14 cases were concluded because of non-indictment orders by public prosecutors.
The TLHR also identified the following trends of politically-motivated prosecution in June 2022:
The number of individuals charged with lèse-majesté exceeds 200, with some of the accused still being detained
In June, the number of individuals charged with lèse-majesté totals 203 (218 cases). There are eight new individuals being charged in seven cases. It appears that Section 112 has been frequently used since November 2021, resulting in an increase of individuals being charged at around 11-12 cases per month.
One of the important case this month is the case of Mr. Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, who was accused of lèse-majesté by Mr. Thepmontri Limpaphayom for tweeting about the monarchy reform – the democratic transition towards a constitutional monarchy. This is the first time that the Secretary-General of the Progressive Movement is accused of such an offense.
Meanwhile, arrest warrants were issued against three net idols – Mumdew, Nara, Nourat – for producing and disseminating a Lazada online advertisement deemed lèse-majesté. They were accused by Mr. Srisuwan Janya as the advertisement deemed to be mocking the former queen and other royal members, although these members are not covered within Section 112.
Moreover, Bright Shinawatra has been accused of lèse-majesté in six cases after giving an interview to the media in front of the Attorney General’s office. “Tho Pad”, an artist, has also been prosecuted for lèse-majesté after drawing and posting a picture of King Rama 10 on Instagram.
The TLHR was also informed of the case of Methin, a 22-year-old soldier who was charged under Section 112 and was detained at the Military Prison 11 for allegedly alluding to the reign of King Rama 10 while arguing with a driver who collided with his car in February 2022. His case was filed at the Bangkok Military Court, and he is currently detained.
In addition to Methin, there are three individuals who have been in pre-trial detentions under this charge – Bung Netiphon, Bai Por, and Sombat Thongyoi. The first two individuals have been on a hunger strike for over one month to protest their pre-trial detentions.
Court proceedings of royal defamation cases continue to impose restrictions, impeding the guarantee of the right to a fair trial. In the #19SeptemberRatsadonTakeBackThePower protest case, the court has not yet issued all subpoenas for witnesses and documents, requested by the defense.
The Samut Prakan Provincial Court has also ruled on the case of Punyapat, a 29-year-old patient with slow development and ADHD, for posting four Facebook messages to the “Royalist Marketplace” Facebook group. He was sentenced to three-year imprisonment for each count, totaling 12 years. Nevertheless, as he confessed, the sentence was reduced to 4 years and 24 months. The court did not take the defendant’s illness into consideration in any way. The defendant is currently release on bail, pending the appeal of the judgment.
Despite the relaxation of Covid restriction measures, allegations under the Emergency Decree continue to be filed
Allegations under the Emergency Decree continue to be filed against protesters even though Covid restriction measures have been eased. This is particularly the case of Thalu Gas group who has been accused under the Emergency Decree as well as other offences. In June, there are at least 21 individuals in 9 cases who have been accused under the Emergency Decree (some of these individuals have already been accused under such offences prior).
At the same time, the trend of court acquittals or non-indictment decisions continues. In the past month, four cases were acquitted including: the case of #21OctRallyToVictoryMonument on 21 October 2020 of Weerawit Rungruangsiripol, two car mob cases in Nakhon Ratchasima province, and a car mob case of Kamphaeng Phet province. The public prosecutor also decided not to prosecute two additional cases filed under the Emergency Decree, namely the case of observers of #ThaluGasProtests in Din Daeng on 23 August 2021 and 2 September 2021. (See the statistics of court acquittals and non-indictment decision by public prosecutors in the Emergency Decree cases)
It should be noted that government officials continue to use the law as a tool to suppress political assembly. Even though the court and the public prosecutor dismissed most of the charges, activists continued to be burdened by the lengthy proceedings which can last years. The judicial process itself also requires a lot of budget and personnel for this kind of case. The situation creates problems in the Thai jurisprudence.
In July, the monitoring of enforcement of the Emergency Decree should continue as the government may extend the state of emergency.
The allegation against the Fah Diew Khan editor for disclosing a confidential document related to national security
At the end of June, Fah Diew Kan editor Thanapol Eawsakul was arrested after the court issued an arrest warrant against him on four charges related to the acquisition and disclosure of a confidential national security document.
Later, it was found that Thanapol was accused of posting a letter of the Office of the National Security Council (NSC) dated 11 November 2020, which summarizes the results of the meeting of the Head of National Intelligence Agency. Part of the content in the letter was an order for the police to investigate a bio of a retired diplomat who disseminate information to “attack the government” in order to facilitate a countermeasure operation. The Ministry of the Interior was also assigned to coordinate with provincial governors across the country (in secret ways) to maintain ongoing activities to demonstrate loyalty to the nation’s main institutions.
Interestingly, the four charges Thanapol is facing have rarely been used in any prosecutions. Moreover, the content of the document reveals potentially the abuse of power, putting into questions whether the orders, such as the surveillance of personal data or the organization of activities that are in contrary to what the people are calling for, are legitimate.