Overview of 2023 for political prisoners: 67 people detained, 9 protesting against the court’s bail decisions, 37 spending the New Year’s Eve in jail. The most common charge was under lèse-majesté.

  • 320 marks the number of days Thiranai and Chaiyaporn have spent in detention, the longest in 2023 (they are still currently in jail).
  • 67 is the total number of political detainees.
  • 34 is the number of detainees charged under the lèse-majesté law.
  • 6 is the number of people detained for a long period, forcing them to halt their pursuit of the trial.
  • 9 is the number of people protesting for their right to bail while in detention

2023 saw the highest number of political detainees in recent years. At least 56 citizens and activists were jailed in 2023, outnumbering last year’s figure of at least 46 detainees. Adding the 19 individuals who were detained continuously since 2022 brings the total of at least 67 detainees in 2023.

Out of the 67 detainees, at least 37 have not been released and have spent the new year behind bars. This figure surpasses the detainee count for 2021-2022 (22) and 2022-2023 (19).

Overview of political detainees in 2023: monthly ratio of people detained to those released is 5:3, while the most common charge falls under lèse-majesté (27)

Overall, at least one person in political cases was incarcerated every month in 2023, with an average of five individuals per month. March had the highest number of imprisonments, with 14 individuals imprisoned, followed by August with 10 individuals.

Conversely, the average number of individuals released every month stands at only three. No individuals were released from prison during the months of January, August, and September. February (15), March (9), and November (5) saw more detainees released than other months. 

TOP 3 most common lawsuits that have issued prison sentences*

  1. Lawsuits under lèse-majesté charges, with at least 27 individuals in 29 instances.
  2. Lawsuits related to the use of explosives, with at least 17 individuals in 19 instances.
  3. Lawsuits related to protests and other forms of political expressions, in at least 9 instances.  

TOP 3 most common reasons for detention

  1. Detention issued by the Court of First Instance – a total of 33 times.
  2. Detained under the investigative stage – a total of 7 times.
  3. Detention issued by the Court of Appeals – a total of 6 times.

Other reasons – a total of 12 times. For example, prosecutions by public attorneys, bail revocations, detention orders by the Supreme Court, and special measures in juvenile cases.

TOP 3 most common reasons for release

  1. Released on bail – at least 36 individuals.
  2. Completion of prison sentence – at least 3 individuals.
  3. Prosecutors issued a non-prosecution order during detention – at least 1 individual.

*Remarks: Not including the lawsuits against 19 people detained continuously since 2022.

Detainees during trial: ‘Thiranai & Chaiyaporn’ have been detained without the right to bail for over 320 days, breaking the records set in 2021 and 2022. Previously, the average duration that individuals have spent in prison before release was three months. 

In 2023, TLHR has seen individuals being detained during trial for many reasons, such as the court issuing a detention order under the investigative stage, bail denial after being indicted by the public prosecutor, the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal issuing prison sentences without parole and subsequently refusing bail, and self-revocation of bail as a political expression.

Many defendants were imprisoned for a long time after their bails were rejected. In such cases, they usually had to spend 94 days or an average of 3 months before the courts released them temporarily. 

It should be noted that this figure has yet to take into account the number of individuals who were detained for a long time without their right to bail. As of 31 December 2023, at least 24 people remain in detention. 

Thiranai & Chaiyaporn,” two defendants in the case involving the use of explosives (ping pong bombs), have been detained for at least 320 days (since 15 February 2023) without the right to bail, making this the longest detention in 2023. They spent only a month and a half outside of prison in 2023. 

They broke the record for the longest duration in detention, previously held by “Arnon Nampa,” who spent 202 days in detention in 2021 before he was granted bail, as well as Katakorn, who had spent over 300 days in detention in 2022 before his case concluded. 

The second longest detention goes to Chanadon “Mark”, who was detained for 292 days after also being charged in a case involving the use of explosives on 14 March 2023. The Court of First Instance has recently passed judgment while Mark was in detention. The third longest detention goes to “Wut,” who was detained for 280 days after being charged under lèse-majesté. 

Detainees whose cases have concluded: From 3 individuals in 2021 to 13 in 2023. Almost half have ceased their submission of appeals after being detained for a prolonged period during their trials.

The number of political detainees whose cases have concluded continues to rise every year. This is partly because prolonged detention without the right to bail has left many to cease the submission of appeals and agree to serve their prison sentences.

In 2021, at least three detainees ceased their submission of appeals, including Yong, Anchan, and Supakorn.

In 2022, at least five additional detainees ceased their submission of appeals, including Private Methin, Natchanon “Ma”, Paritad, Wannapa, and Kridsana. This brought the total number of detainees to eight.

In 2023, at least eight additional detainees ceased their appeal submissions. Three individuals were released after completing their sentences. This brings the total number of detainees to at least thirteen. 

Two of the eight detainees ceased their appeals submission this year, Ekkachai Hongkangwan and Kijja, after receiving judgments from the Supreme Court.

The remaining six detainees were initially detained while their trials were ongoing after receiving indictments from prosecutors or judgments from the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal. However, the prolonged period of detention without the right to bail coupled with the public prosecutors’ decision against submitting appeals to higher court has influenced all six detainees to halt their trial pursuits and agree to serve their prison term, as “detainees whose cases have concluded.”

Many detainees who have halted their trial pursuits have reflected upon their decision, saying that it gave them an endpoint and a timeline. They also said that it was a better option than being detained indefinitely while waiting for bail, without knowing when they would be released. Moreover, once they concluded, they stood a chance of being released on parole or having his/her prison sentence reduced. 

Among the current 13, political detainees, five will be released in 2024, after successfully serving their sentences (Ekkachai, Paritad, Yong, Suwit, Methin)

Nonetheless at least five detainees will be eligible for parole. Progress in their cases is expected in early 2024.   

Political Detainees Whose Cases Have Become Concluded
No.NameAgeStarting DateDuration (days)Due Release Date
1Yong511 Dec 2020112615 Jun 2024
2Anchan, Preelert6719 Jan 2021107724 Sep 2031
3Soldier Methin2319 Mar 2022653Oct 2024
4Ma Natchanon 269 Aug 20225102025
5Paritad3312 Oct 2022446Apr 2024
6Wannapa 3530 Nov 20223972025
7Kridsana3730 Nov 20223972025
8Tatpong Keawkhao261 Mar 20233062025
9Art Suwit 3224 Apr 2023252Jun 2024
10Ekkachai Hongkangwan486 Jul 20231794 Feb 2024
11Wat3017 Jul 20231682025
12Sudjai5312 Oct 2023812025
13Kijja1 Nov 2023612025

In-prison protests calling for the right to bail: a total of ten protests were staged by nine detainees in three different periods.  The last two periods in the second half of the year were met with no response. As a result, “Warunee-Weha-Poom” are still in detention. 

In-prison protests 2023
No.WaveProtesters’ NameMethodStarting DateEnding DateTotal
11Tawan – Tantawan (lese majeste)Hunger strike18 Jan 202311 Mar 202352*
21Bam – Orawan (lese majeste)Hunger strike18 Jan 202311 Mar 202352*
31Tack – Sitthichoke (lese majeste)Hunger strike17 Jan 202310 Feb 2023 24
Forced wake8 Feb 202310 Feb 20233
41Get – Sophon (lese majeste)Forced wake7 Feb 202320 Feb 2023 14
51Tom – JatuponForced wake7 Feb 202310 Feb 20234
61Bank – NattaponForced wake7 Feb 202310 Feb 20234
72Nam – Warunee (lese majeste)Hunger strike21 Aug 20236 Oct 202346
82Weha (lese majeste)Hunger strike23 Aug 202310 Oct 2023 49
93Poom Hualumphong (lese majeste)Hunger strike15 Nov 202320 Nov 20236

*The second half of the protest, from 7 Feb 2023 until 11 March 2023, took place when the detainees had already been released.

In 2023, at least ten protests in various forms were staged by 9 detainees. 

A total of six hunger strikes occurred in 2023, which is a comparable figure to 2021 and 2022. However, the strikes have intensified, owing to the unprecedented practice of dry hunger strikes. This method of protest is particularly dangerous and can quickly lead to critical bodily harm.

An equally dangerous practice known as the forced wake has recently been observed, which involves forcing oneself to stay awake beyond the body’s natural limit. At least four protesters have attempted this method of protest in at least four different instances.

Reflecting on 2023, we saw that the first period of major protests (6) took place towards the beginning of the year. The second period of major protests (2) occurred in August, and the last period occurred in mid-November. 

During the first period of protests in early 2023, six detainees staged protests at around the same time. The protests prompted 15 out of 18 individuals who were detained during their trials to be released. However, the second and third periods were met with no response and the protesters remained in detention.