October 2022: at least 1,864 people were politically prosecuted in 1,145 cases

During the month of October, there were not many new individuals being prosecuted. However, the cases charged under Section 112 (Lèse-majesté) of Thailand’s Criminal Code and cases on the ground of violating the Emergency Decree for holding public assemblies during 2020 are still ongoing in court proceedings, including hearing verdicts. Even though the Emergency Decree has been lifted, the cases that allegedly violate the Emergency Decree are still being prosecuted and the judicial process is time-consuming.

According to the TLHR statistics, at least 1,864 people in 1,145 cases have been prosecuted due to political participation and expression since the beginning of the “Free Youth Movement” protest on 18 July 2020 until 31 October 2022. Among this number are 283 minors under 18 years old. Compared to the end of September 2022, 4 people in 6 cases have been added to the statistics (counting only those who have never been charged before). If we also count individuals who have been prosecuted in many cases, the number is as high as 3,710 accused individuals. 

The prosecutions can be categorized according to key charges as follows:

1. The “royal defamation or lèse-majesté” charge under Section 112 of the Criminal Code: at least 217 individuals in 236 cases.

2. The “sedition” charge under Section 116 of the Criminal Code: at least 127 individuals in 39 cases.

3. Charges of violation of the Emergency Decree: at least 1,469 people in 662 cases (since May 2020 when the first legal action against political protesters and activists was initiated).

4. Charges under the Public Assembly Act: at least 107 people in 75 cases.

5. Charges under the Computer Crime Act: at least 154 people in 174 cases.

6. Contempt of court charge: at least 36 people in 20 cases and insult to the court charge involving at least 27 people in 7 cases.

Out of the mentioned 1,145 cases, 268 have been concluded, 35 of which were not indicted by the public prosecutors. As such, 877 cases are still ongoing in court proceedings

The prosecution trends in October 2022 observe the following key events:

Two more people have been prosecuted in two lèse-majesté or Section 112 cases. There are at least three defendants under the Section 112 cases who are still being detained in remand during trials including Sombat Thongyoi, Pornchai Yuanyee, and Mickey Bang

There is a new case of Atiruj, a 25-year-old programmer who was detained during the royal motorcade of King Rama X passing through the Queen Sirikit Convention Center. He was accused of not sitting down and shouting “Such a burden anywhere you go”. Atiruj was granted bail after being charged and detained at Lumphini police station.

In addition, there is a summons warrant issued under Section 112 (lèse-majesté) in a case at Chumphon police station. The accused person is a former M.P. candidate of Move forward party. However, the details of the warrant have note yet been disclosed.

In October there were three court hearings of Section 112  (lèse-majesté) cases of civilians

Two cases in Narathiwat were filed by Pasit Chanhuatone. One of the case is the case of Waree’s which was acquitted as the plaintiff’s witness could not provide convincing evidence.

On the contrary, in the case of Pakpinya, convicted under section 112 (lèse-majesté) and sentenced to nine years for committing three offenses (three-years jail term per count). The court was convinced that the defendant was the owner of the Facebook posts allegedly defaming the monarchy.

She was granted bail awaiting her appeal.

For the case of Pipat, the Samutprakarn provincial court has acquitted the case for the same reason as “Waree” for the lack of evidence. The court ruled that the mere photo of the screenshot cannot be used as electronic evidence. The evidence is doubtful. This case is one of the cases that the pro-monarchy group has filed complaints of more than 10  cases at Bang Kaew police station.

We still need to keep an eye on the verdicts and witness examination of civilians’ cases on the ground of Section 112 (lèse-majesté) .

For the Emergency Decree cases from the protests are still on going. The courts have acquitted at least 6 cases and convicted two cases.

In October, the Emergency Decree that has been in effect for two years ended. The Public Assembly Act is in use to contain the public gathering instead. However, there is report of new charges related to protest in the month of October.

However, there is one case of a “Korat Movement” member that put up a sign during the royal motorcade that was taken to the police station and received a fine of 100 baht for not having his identity card with him.

Not all of the cases violating The Emergency Decree from 2020-2022 protests have been concluded but continuously being handled in court proceedings.

The general tendency of the prosecution reveals that the courts acquitted some cases. Last month there were 6 cases acquitted including 1) The case of “we are taking back what’s ours, we’re not begging” protest next to The Government House, 2) The case of a defendant who was charged due to the protest in front of the Burmese Embassy, 3) The case of Abhisit Sapnaphapan from the #21october protest in Victory Monoment, 4) The case of “Sand”, a minor who was charged due to the protest in front of Phukeaw police station in Chaiyaphum, 5) the case of Car Mob in Mae Sot in Tak Province and 6) The case of “cheering up for the defendants from Khong Chee Mun (Three rivers)” in front of Khon Kaen police station.

Moreover, there are five Emergency Decree cases that the public prosecutors did not indict including four cases from Din Daeng protest, a case of #friday13againsttyranny near Victory monument. But there are still many more cases that the prosecutors have indicted causing burdens to activists who have to defend themselves in court.

However during the month of October, there are some courts that convicted the protesters for violating The Emergency Decree such as the case of Utharadith Car Mob that sentenced the defendants to two-months jail term without suspension. Even though the protest was taking place by riding and driving on the streets in an open-aired space with low risk to the spread of the disease. This case is the first case of public assembly that the court ordered a sentence without suspension but both defendants were granted bail by court of appeals.

In addition, there is a case of “Mungmink Mob” in front of The Royal Thai Army on 20 July 2020 that the Dusit district court decided that the protest did not have covid-19 containment measures and lacked social distancing. The court ordered a fine of 20,000 baht with an additional fine for using sound amplifiers of 200 baht to each defendant without a sentence of jail term. The sentence is reduced to 1/4 of the sentence for their useful testimony amounting 15,150 baht fine without jail term.

From the court verdicts above, we can see that the differences of each court’s decision on the violation of The Emergency Decree cases. The scope of people’s rights to exercise Freedom of Expression and Assembly also differs from judges to judges. 

Interesting court verdicts of cases under Section 116 (sedition), violation of The Emergency Decree and contempt of court.

During the month of October, there are still the  interesting court verdicts of political cases including two cases that were convicted which are concerning to the exercise of fundamental rights of Freedom of Expression and Assembly  such as the case of Tiwagorn Withiton who was convicted by Lampang Provincial Court on the basis of “Sedition” under Section 116 for making online posts inviting people to give signature in Change.org to cast their voice whether to sustain or to demolish the Institution of The Monarchy. He was sentenced to three-years jail term with suspension.

Another case is the case of “James Prasit” who was convicted for not notifying the authority to organize the public assembly of  “no backing up, no tolerating” protest at Tha Pae in Chiang Mai on 14 December 2019.James has defended himself to Supreme Court but the Supreme Court has delivered its judgment following the Court of the first instance and Court of Appeal that even for posting to invite people to the protest is simply the act of “having the intention to organize the public assembly.”

For information that TLHR has monitored, this is the first case convicted for violating The Public Assembly Act that has reached Supreme Court.

For another court’s decision for the case of “Lung Dorn (Uncle Dorn), Paradorn Katepuek” a civilian reporter who was charged under contempt of court accusation as he has set up a camera for live streaming near the exit of  Bangkok South Criminal Court. The court has dismissed the case deciding that the defendant was not aware of the court’s rules and there was no clear indication of the prohibited area and the area that could be live-streamed. as well as there were no officers informing the defendant of the court rule. There was the lack of evidence that the acts of the defendant incite chaos inside the court.