There was not a significant increase in the number of political cases during the last month of 2022. That said, the courts steadily passed judgments for the cases involving protests and expressions in 2020 and 2021. Among these were at least 6 lèse-majesté cases and 12 Emergency Decree cases in this month alone. Meanwhile, the ongoing attempts to have the bails of still active activists revoked or reviewed in court are also something we should keep an eye on as the new year rolls in.
According to the TLHR statistics, at least 1,888 people in 1,165 cases have been prosecuted due to their political participation and expression since the beginning of the “Free Youth” protest on 18 July 2020 until 31 December 2022. Among these numbers are 210 cases involving 283 children under 18 years old.
Compared to the end of November 2022, 2 people in 6 cases have been added to the statistics (only counting those who had never been charged before).
If we also count those who are charged in multiple cases, we find that there are at least 3,759 incidents of prosecution in total.
The prosecution can be grouped according to key charges, as follows:
1. The royal defamation or “lèse-majesté” charge under Section 112 of the Criminal Code: at least 215 individuals in 243 cases.
2. The “sedition” charge under Section 116 of the Criminal Code: at least 128 individuals in 40 cases.
3. Charges of violation of the Emergency Decree: at least 1,469 people in 663 cases (since May 2020 when legal action against political protesters and activists under the Emergency Decree began).
4. Charges under the Public Assembly Act: at least 132 people in 76 cases.
5. Charges under the Computer Crime Act: at least 159 people in 179 cases.
6. Contempt of court charge: at least 36 people in 20 cases and insult of court charge involving at least 27 people in 8 cases.
Out of the mentioned 1,165 cases, 292 are concluded. Meaning, at least 873 are still ongoing at various stages.
The prosecution trends in December 2022 observe the following key developments:
Lèse-majesté cases increased by at least four cases. Two more people detained. Court is proceeding to pass judgments.
Based on our statistics, 4 people have been charged in 4 cases with the lèse-majesté law or Section 112 of the Criminal Code last month. These include Magarapong ‘Ter’, an activist in Nakhon Ratchasima who was accused by the police from Muang Nakhon Ratchasima Police Station of giving a speech at an assembly in front of Ya Mo Monument Square in April 2021. Another individual is Chakorn, a Mukdahan citizen arrested under the warrant issued by the Nonthaburi Provincial Court and pressed charge at the Rattanathibet Police Station for posting a comment under a social media post.
In the past month, 2 more people have also been put in detention during trial in lèse-majesté cases. Ukrit ‘Kong’, a Ramkamhaeng University student, was sentenced to 5 years and 30 months of imprisonment by the First Instance Court, before the Appeal Court denied his bail request. Ek, a bar employee, was recently indicted in a case in which he shared posts from the “Konthai UK” Facebook Page. The Criminal Court did not grant him bail during trial on the ground that he might flee. The two spent the New Yea behind bars.
Sombat Thongyoi is also entering the 8th month of his time in jail as his case is on appeal. The bail situation of the accused in lèse-majesté cases needs to be further monitored.
In the past month, the courts issued judgments in 6 lèse-majesté cases. Besides Ukrit ‘Kong’, Pornchai, who did a live broadcast talking about the political situation in 2020, was also sentenced to 3 years of jail term by the Yala Provincial Court, commuted to 2 years without suspension due to cooperation in court. He was granted bail during appeal.
Meanwhile, the courts passed imprisonment sentences for 2 defendants, who confessed to the crime, but with suspension. These were the case of Panida under the jurisdiction of the Pattaya Provincial Court and of Thanyadon under the Samut Prakan Provincial Court.
The Nonthaburi Juvenile and Family Court also passed a judgment for the case of Thanakon ‘Petch’. This is Petch’s second lèse-majesté case which resulted from the speeches delivered at the protest at Nonthaburi Pier on 10 September 2020. The Court stated that the defendant’s speech caused hatred and misunderstanding about the King. Petch received a suspended jail term of 1 year and 6 months.
In only one case did the court acquit the defendant last month: that of Chaichana, a psychiatric patient from Lamphun who was tried by the Narathiwat Provincial Court. The court acquitted him, holding that the plaintiff failed to prove that the defendant was the user or the owner of the Facebook account as alleged.
In summary, among all the lèse-majesté cases happening in 2022, only 5 cases were dismissed by the court. More than half of the 32 cases known to have concluded received imprisonment sentences without suspension.
The Court dismissed 9 Emergency Decree cases in a row, convicting one case involving a child without suspension.
In December, there was not a significant increase in the number of cases related to political assemblies, except one where the organizer of the Christmas activity at the Democracy Monument calling for bails for political detainees on 25 December 2022 was fined by the police for using amplifiers without permission.
That said, more and more protest-related cases under the Emergency Decree reached the verdict stage. The court issued judgments in a total of 12 cases, dismissing 9 and convicting the other 3.
A notable case is that of “Phum”, a child participating in the #RatsadonEsan protest on 13 October 2020. He was sentenced by the Juvenile Court to a jail term of 2 years and 5 days for charges under the Emergency Decree, Section 215 of the Criminal Code, as well as the offense of disobeying an official’s order. However, the jail term was replaced by an order requiring Phum’s attendance at the Youth Practice and Training Center for 5 months. Phum has been granted bail during appeal in this case.
Meanwhile, the public prosecutor decided not to indict one more case: that of the protest in front of the parliament on 17 November 2020 involving 4 activists. The public prosecutor saw that the activists did not appear to be the people in charge of or responsible for organizing the protest, and thus were neither obliged to obtain a permission to do so, nor had a direct responsibility to provide for disease prevention measures. Moreover, the protest site did not seem to be crowded and risky of disease transmission.
Despite the fact that the declaration of emergency situation is no longer in force by the end of 2022, at least 547 Emergency Decree cases related to protests still persist, accounting for 82 % of the total number of cases of which we know. As long as no policy is implemented to cease prosecution in these cases at the national level, these cases concerning freedom of speech will continue.
Many activists have been summoned to appear at bail revocation hearings.
Another important development observed during the last month of 2022 was that many activists were summoned by the court to attend bail revocation hearings as a result of their political expression during the APEC Summit 2022 in mid-November.
In the case of Josef, who was charged under the lèse majesté law for making a speech at an event discussing the death of King Taksin, the public prosecutor submitted a request for bail revocation, claiming that Josef attended the Citizens Stop APEC 2022 protest. After the hearing, the Thonburi Criminal Court passed an order rejecting the request, seeing that the facts did not show how the defendant’s participation in the demonstration had caused disorder and unrest.
The Criminal Court also set the dates for the bail revocation hearing for Sophon ‘Get’, Baipor, and Tantawan ‘Tawan’, all of whom were indicted under the lèse-majesté law. The bail revocation requests were filed by a Court of Justice staff, not investigative officers and public prosecutors, against the three. As for Get and Baipor, whose hearings took place on 19 and 26 December, the Court set the date on which it would issue an order to be on 9 January 2023 along with the examination of Tawan’s case.
The situation in which activists on bail are targeted by both state authorities and conservative group members, who seek to have their bails revoked claiming a violation of bail conditions, will thus be an important focus for 2023