Criminal Court refused to grant permission to human rights defender charged with lèse-majesté (Section 112) to attend meetings with the United Nations in Geneva

On 9 March 2023, the Criminal Court denied Pimsiri Petchnamrob’s request to appeal its previous decision to not grant Pimsiri permission to leave Thailand in order to attend meetings at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, later this month. As part of her bail condition in a lèse-majesté case, Pimsiri is prohibited from leaving the country without first obtaining permission from the court. This is the third time the Court denied her request to leave the country to attend human rights meetings in Geneva.

Pimsiri is a human rights defender and a consultant to ARTICLE 19, an international human rights organization that works to defend and promote the right to freedom of expression worldwide. 

On 29 November 2020, she attended at demonstration in front of the 11th Infantry Battalion and gave a speech about a UN special rapporteur’s opinion on Thailand’s Section 112 (lèse-majesté)—i.e., that lèse-majesté law has no place in a democratic country. She did not engage in any other conduct in connection with this demonstration. 

On 25 November 2021, Pimsiri was charged and indicted under a total of ten charges, such as Sections 112 (lèse-majesté), 116 (sedition), 215 (illegal assembly), 216 (failure to disperse illegal assembly) of the Criminal Code. She was also charged with violation of the Emergency Decree and the Public Assembly Act B.E. 2558. On the same day of the indictment, she was released on bail subjected to two bail conditions: (1) to not engage in activities that damage the monarchy institution; and (2) to not leave the country without the court’s approval.

To attend the Human Rights Council meetings in Geneva—which began on 27 February 2023 and would last until 4 April 2023—Pimsiri, who was planning to attend the meetings in her capacity as a representative of a human rights organization with the consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), first submitted a request to leave the country on 13 February 2023 and later on 24 February 2023. The Court denied both requests on the grounds that there was no reason to change its order. No elaboration was provided. 

In her second request, Pimsiri explained to the Court that she was not a flight risk as she has employment in Thailand. In fact, her trip to Geneva would be part of her work. She also submitted, inter alia, an invitation to travel to Geneva from ARTICLE 19, meetings schedule, and a letter from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights to the Court. Pimisiri further pointed to other cases in which the Bangkok South Criminal Court allowed some defendants in the “Protest in front of the German Embassy” case to leave Thailand to attend meetings on the environment and community rights in Czech in September 2022. Yet, the Court denied her request.

On 9 March 2023, Pimsiri submitted a request to appeal the Court’s denial of her request to leave the country. The Court dismissed her request on the grounds that only it has the power to issue order on this matter. The Appeal Court does not have such power. The Criminal Court explained that its denial or Pimsiri’s request is not an order denying temporary release under Section 119 bis. A Section 119 bis order can be appealed to the Appeal Court. Pimsiri will further submit her request tomorrow, 10 March.