date: 8/8/2023 author: Faozee Lateh

An Overview Of Public Assemblies And Harassment Following The Gatherings April 2023


Monthly Report on Public Assembly, Prosecution, and Harassment regard to Freedom of Expression and Assembly in April 2023

Monthly Report on public assembly and harassment related to public assembly and expression April 2023

Overview Situation of Public Assembly

April saw at least 32 public assemblies, at least ten less than in March. Since it was close to a national election when election campaigns were rife throughout the country, the intensity of public assemblies has naturally declined. The issues that prompted the most public assemblies continue to be a demand of the right to bail. At least 28 public assemblies were held coalescing the issue including at least 16 Stand Stop Imprisonment in front of the Bangkok Supreme Court.  



Regarding Yok Thanalop (last name withheld), a 15-year-old child, the youngest to be charged for an offence against Section 112, at present, she has been remanded in custody at the Ban Pranee Juvenile Vocational Training Center for Girls in Nakhon Pathom for 32 days causing her to lose the change to further her study. She could lose her chance to enroll for Grade Ten should she fail to turn herself up at school before the break of the new semester. Therefore, activists have been holding activities to demand the release of Yok and other political prisoners at least 12 times including at least eight symbolic actions led by Yok’s friends including Tantawan Tuatulanon, Orawan Phuphong, Sophon Surariddhidhamrong, Sainam (name and last name withheld) and Anna (name and last name withheld). For example, they held banners which read “A 15-year-old being imprisoned for Section 112” at the Wet Gymnasium 2, Thai-Japan Bangkok Youth Center which was used as a venue for the registration of MP candidates from 33 constituencies in Bangkok amidst strict security arrangement of the police. The activists led by Anna organized a symbolic action through a Performance Art and the distribution of fliers "Free Yok" to demand her release and to explain about Section 112 prosecution at Siam Square. In addition, a symbolic action through Performance Art “Let’s Dream the Drawable Dream” was organized and passerby were invited to draw pictures to show their solidarity with Yok at Siam Square as well. Both activities drew much attention from members of the public. Tantawan and Sophon have gone to distribute fliers about Yok at The Old Siam Plaza, Tri Phet Rd, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, but was prevented from entering the area by rows of police officials and the pro-monarchy activists including the People's Center for the Protection of Monarchy (SPPS) present there. Both got into an altercation while the police were holding the line to ensure safety. A street poll was conducted on the topic "Do you think a 15-year-old child should have a chance to visit a book fair or to go to prison? " at the book fair held at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre (QSNCC). Activists from various groups led by Sophon distributed fliers and shouted to demand responsibility from the Attorney General for allowing a large number of people to be prosecuted on politically motivated charges at the Victory Monument BTS station. In addition, placards were held up about Yok and posters that read ”This Songkran, someone was barred from returning home” which alluded to their friends who remained in jail. Tantawan and Orawan was distributing a letter penned by Yok while being remanded in the Juvenile Vocational Training Center and speaking about the case in front of the Central Juvenile and Family Court. The Ratsadon 888 helped to tie green ribbons to show their solidarity with Yok at the Juvenile Vocational Training Center in Nakhon Pathom.  They have quarried political parties three times about their take on the release of Yok. The activists led by Tantawan and Orawan have appeared during an election rally of the Palang Pracharath Party and asked to meet the Minister of Digital Economy and Society to demand the release of political prisoners. It has led to a scuffle between the activists and the security guards as well as some attendants of the event. One activist was injured by a group of teenagers and had to receive treatment from the Siriraj Hospital later. He reported the case to the Bang Yi Khan Police Station. After the public discussion on the amendment of the Penal Code at Thammasat University, the activists have queried representatives of political parties about the case of Yok and other political prisoners about their right to bail. They also queried other politicians on the same issues during the debate on human rights agendas held by Amnesty International Thailand at the Lan Khon Mueang Town Square in Bangkok. 

In addition, independent groups have organized the activity “Decree from the palace wall, the voice that must be heard throughout the world” and submitted a letter of petition to a representative of the United Nations (UN) in Thailand regarding Yok and 'Hin' (pseudonym), 19-year-old youth currently remanded in custody at the the youth detention center. On the same day, they have unveiled photos of the unlawful arrest against the two youth. 

Another issue that prompted lesser activism is concerning the election. The Ratsadon “Vote for Change” has gone to the Office of the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) to submit a letter of petition to demand the ECT to hold a transparent and accountable election. The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) organized a forum on the debate of policies to stop politically motivated cases during which the Pheu Thai Party, Move Forward Party, and the Commoners' Party all agreed that an amnesty should be granted to politically motivated dated back to at least 2006. 

This month saw at least two activities held to commemorate the deaths or disappearances for political reasons. The People’s Committee to Restore Justice 2010 organized an activity “13th anniversary of the April-May 2010 massacre” to mark the 13th anniversary of the crackdown on the demonstrations led by the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD). A Buddhist ceremony was held to send merit to the martyrs and wreaths were laid by various organizations, political parties and activists. Independent activists clad in prisoner uniform appeared in BTS train as a symbolic action to demand a reform of the judicial process to mark the ninth anniversary of the disappearance of Polajee Rakjongcharoen or Billy.

Update on legal cases and harassment against the public as of April 2023 

Despite more intense political climate in April, the number of legal cases stemming from public assemblies continues to rise. At least seven more individuals have been pressed with charges concerning Section 112 reflecting how the interpretation of the law is still of much relevance. Meanwhile, the Public Assembly Act and Section 116 have been invoked to prosecute opposition politicians and activists. 

Since the Free Youth led public assemblies on 18 July 2020 until 30 April 2023, at least 1,902 individuals have been charged for participating in public assemblies or expressing their political opinions in 1,203 cases including 211 cases against 284 youth under 18 years of age. Prosecutions against children include 41 cases against children under 15 and 243 cases against children from 15-18 years. Compared with the end of March 2023, four more individuals have been charged in 16 new cases (counting only those who have never been charged before.) Altogether, there have been at least 3,827 legal actions against the individuals although some of them are charged for multiple offences. Of this, 343 cases have reached the final verdicts leaving more than 860 active cases pending in various stages of the procedure. 

Detail of key offences can be described as follows;  

1. “Lese majeste” offence pursuant to the Penal Code’s Section112, at least 242 suspects in 262 cases  

This month saw seven more individuals charged on the offence in six cases. Sathaphon (last name withheld) was arrested by 13 police officials per the arrest warrant due to his action during the motorcade of KIng Rama X and Queen Suthida just in front of McDonald's at the Democracy Monument on 1 May 2022. Sinthu (pseudonym) has gone from Chanthaburi to answer to the charges against him at the Phatthalung Police Station due to the comments he posted in The MalaengtaD Facebook Page’s post with photo of KIng Rama X and the Queen with caption on 18 June 2022. Bang-earn was arrested by 10 police officials in a gas station in Bang Bua Thong for posting a Facebook message with photos of the family of KIng Rama X on 15 March 2022 although he had never been summoned on this charge. During the interrogation, the police produced the Criminal Court’s warrant and asked him for a passcode to his cellphone. “Sainam” Noppasin and Oil Sitthichai have turned themselves in after an arrest warrant has been issued against them. It was probably related to their posting of their own photo while flashing three fingers at the Equestrian Statue Plaza on 7 March 2023 after being freed on bail in another case. The new case was reported against them by a member of the People’s Center for the Protection of Monarchy (SPPS) who claimed their action was taking place inside the royal palace’s zone and such symbolic action referred to peace, freedom and fraternity which was an act to insult or discredit the King. Nonetheless, during this month, both were also stopped at a checkpoint of Hua Chang Bridge, Phaya Thai Rd., Initially, they were supposedly pressed with charges as a result of spraying paint the number 112 and an anarchist symbol in various spots around Bangkok. Both were held in custody at the Phaya Thai Police Station for three hours before being freed without charges although their six spray paint cans were confiscated. On the following day, it was reported that both were followed while driving by a police detective car. Songphon Sonthirak was summoned to answer to charges at the Muang Khon Kaen Police Station after a case was reported against him by an MP candidate of the Thai Pakdee Party. Initially, he has sent a letter to ask for postponing his answering to the charges. In addition, according to the People’s Center for the Protection of Monarchy (SPPS) Facebook Page, they have reported the case against Tum (name and last name withheld), admin of the Khon Klom Khon Liam Facebook Page, a political satire page and it was the second case they have to face for an offence against Section 112. 

Nine more individuals have been indicted in five cases. Chokdee Rompruk was indicted for livestreaming while he was playing guitar in the song “Lucky to have Thai people” during an activity to oust General Prayut Chan-ocha from the Victory Monument to the Government House on 23 August 2022. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Niraphon Onkhao and Benja Apan were indicted for being admins of the “United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration” Facebook Page and posting messages to criticize the roles of KIng Rama X vis-à-vis the judiciary related to the revocation of bail of core members of the Ratsadon on 9 August 2021. Narongsak (last name withheld), Athikhun (last name withheld) and Nutthaphon Lekyaem were indicted related to the setting on fire a royal decoration arch in front of the Ministry of Labour the night of 14 September 2021. Phukhao (pseudonym) was indicted for posting Facebook messages to criticize the monarchy and to show his solidarity with the Organization For a Thai Federation since March 2019. Bum Akkhaphon (last name withheld) was indicted for posting eight Facebook messages around July 2020 – January 2021.  

Two verdicts were delivered in two cases. The Lower Court ruled in the case against Nawat Liangwattana for making a speech at the public assembly “Counting from 1 to million to restore people’s power” held at the Democracy Monument on 13 February 2021. Following his guilty plea, the Court convicted and sentenced him to three years for an offence against Section 112, and two months for an offence against the Emergency Decree, before reducing it to one year and seven months without suspension. He was later freed on bail. A verdict was delivered by the Appeals Court in the case against Wutthiphat (pseudonym) for posting his comments in Royalist Marketplace Facebook Group on 2 June 2563 concerning the death of King Rama VIII and raising a question about the three defendants in the regicide case of King Rama VIII who were executed despite being innocent. The Court acquitted him on the case citing it did not constitute a crime against Section. The Appeals Court, however, overturned the verdict and found him guilty against Section 112 citing the insult against the previous King did impair reputation of the reigning monarch since Section 112 did not specify that it had to be the reigning monarch. He was sentenced to five years, before getting reduced to three years and four months without suspension and was freed on bail pending the verdict of the Supreme Court. 

2. Sedition pursuant to the Penal Code’s Section116, at least 130 suspects in 41 cases  

3. An offence against the Emergency Decree, at least 1,469 suspects in 663 cases  

April saw no new legal cases taken on the offence against the Emergency Decree, although the Courts have only delivered acquittal verdicts in all the three such cases. In two such cases, however, despite being acquitted on the Emergency Decree, the defendants were convicted on other charges. 11 students and individuals who were indicted for a Car Mob “Hat Yai Bursud Khe Rot Yik Loong Yed Mae” on 14 August 2021 were found guilty and fined 200 baht each for unauthorized use of amplifier and one of them was fined 500 baht for obscuring car’s license plate. Supphawit Prasinthong who was prosecuted in Car Mob Phetchabun “Erasing Dictator’s Tanks with People’s Motorcade” on 19 September 2021 was fined 15,000 baht for insulting the officials and 200 baht for unauthorized use of amplifier. Given his guilty plea, the punishment was reduced by a half to 7,500 baht for insulting the officials and 100 baht for unauthorized use of amplifier, altogether 7,600 baht. Some were convicted by the Courts on this charge. For example, Theerawit Sukprasertkul, Nirut Lamoon and Lamyai Channgam who were indicted for participating in the Mob7Aug2021 public assembly led by the Free Youth were found guilty by the Court. The defendant no. 1 was also convicted for an offence against the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act and the Emergency Decree and fined for 100 baht and 2,000 baht, respectively. The defendants no. 2 and 3 were found guilty for an offence against the Emergency Decree and fined 2,000 baht each. Altogether, the three defendants were fined 6,100 baht. 

4. An offence against the Public Assembly Act, at least 144 suspects in 79 cases  

Eight activists clad in prisoner uniform while riding on BTS train to mark the nineth anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Polajee Rakjongcharoen or Billy, an indigenous Karen human rights defender from Ban Pong Luk Bangkloy and to demand judicial reform were charged, and it has raised questions as to such activity could be treated as a public assembly or not, since no prior announcement had been made to invite the public to join them.

5. An offence against the Computer Crimes Act, at least 167 suspects in 186 cases  

This month saw verdicts in two such cases. A verdict was delivered by the Supreme Court to acquit Suchanan (last name withheld) for posting Facebook messages alleging the Deputy National Police Chief and Crime Suppression Police were behind the attack of activists including Ja New, Ford and Ekkachai on 4 July 2019. In its ruling, the Court cited a lack of evidence that by keying such data into the computer system, the defendant has neither caused such public turmoil and affected the maintenance of national security nor caused panic to the public as alleged. In another case, the Court has found Watcharakon (last name withheld) guilty for posting Facebook messages alleging that the police had rammed their vehicles into the participants of the Mob8Sept2021 while they were gathered at the Samliam Din Daeng Intersection and sentenced her to two years and a fine of 40,000 baht. Given her guilty plea, it was reduced to one year and a fine of 20,000 baht with two years of suspension.

6. A contempt of court, at least 36 suspects in 20 cases, and insult of the court, at least 28 suspects in 9 cases 

 In addition, cases have been found to restrict freedom of expression during the election campaign including the case filed by the Bhumjaithai Party against Chuwit Kamolvisit in the Civil Court for an act that allegedly cause damage to the party’s reputation. The party has requested for an injunction and an emergency hearing as well citing Chuwit has been actively mobilizing to oppose the party’s policies, particularly on cannabis. Initially, the Civil Court issued a gag order barring the defendant from speaking or acting through whatever means particularly on the cannabis issues and the plaintiff, although the defendant was allowed to continue speaking on the bidding process of the MRT Orange Line. After Chuwit pleaded the Court to revoke such injunction, the Court has since rescinded the gag order finding the defendant has not expressed his opinions particularly on the plaintiff and has been helping to keep the public informed of the pros and cons of cannabis.  

Individuals remanded in custody as of April 2023  

In April, the Central Juvenile and Family Court allowed Hin (pseudonym), 19-year-old youth to be provisionally released following his indictment on throwing “Look Krathob” bomb nine times during the public assembly on 21 November 2021 on the Ratchaprarop Rd. Hin who had been remanded in custody at Ban Metta since on 25 March 2023 has since been released on bail on 25 April 2023 after 32 days in captivity.39 Suwit was, however, denied bail by the Supreme Court after the Appeals Court upheld the Lower Court’s verdict to convict and sentenced him to one year and two months without suspension for having in possession ping pong bombs during the Mob10Aug2021. As of 24 April 2023, seven are still remanded in custody including one minor . There are therefore eight convicted prisoners including Anchan (Section112), Suppakorn (Computer Crime Act), Nutchanon (possession of explosive), Corporal Methin (Section 112), Kritsana and Wannapa (Organization For a Thai Federation case, being members of criminal associations), Parithat (Section 112) and Kathathon (possession of explosive). The Court has read the verdict after Kathathon and Kongpetch had decided to plead guilty to the charges. While Kathathon was sentenced to one year, three months and 15 days and a fine of 1,925 baht, Kongpetch was jailed for 10 months and 10 days and fined for 450 baht and having the explosive, knives, and cloth bags forfeited. Since Kongpetch’s outstanding jail term was four days, he fold the attorney he wanted to serve the remaining time in jail. 

The state of harassment against the public as of April 2023  According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), since it was close to the election, there have been in this month acts of harassment committed against members of the public and MP candidates while canvassing for votes or to stifle the activities during the visit of prominent figures with an increase from March as follows;  

  • Harassment the public ahead of election  

Saithan (pseudonym) and Kampanat (last name withheld) were harassed by police at their homes in Uttaradit and were asked to not participate in any public assembly ahead of the forthcoming visit of General Prayut Chan-ocha who was scheduled to launch election campaign in the area. In addition, at least four other activists and civil society workers who have been visited at home by plainclothes police who did not identify their affiliation. They were there to ask them if they planned to organize any activity or any performance during the election campaign or not. Several of them were engaged with public assemblies during 2020 and were no longer active. Still, they were kept in the watch list of the authorities.  In the South, there have been reports about the police who followed at least three activists in Trang ahead of the election campaign by General Prayut Chan-ocha on 29 April 2023. One of them was a former activists who now lives abroad. Yet, the police have gone to see his parent in Trang to ask if their son would participate in any activity or had a plan to take action or not and how.  

  • Harassment against opposition parties  

Karunphon Thiansuwan, Deputy Spokesperson of Move Forward Party, has gone to Nan to help canvass for votes for the MP candidates in the three constituencies. He was followed and photographed throughout the time by police officials. It was reported by Thai PBS that the officials claimed it was necessary to do son since they wanted to make sure the Move Forward Party would not speak about Section 112 outside the parliamentary sessions, the act of which would cause discontent and it was necessary for them to follow the people to keep them safe. Similarly, Amarat Chokepamitkul, former MP of Move Forward Party, during her campaign in Phu Sang District, Phayao in Sob Pong Market, she was openly followed and photographed by around 7-8 police officials during her work there. It was rather an act of harassment during election campaign than an attempt to provide safety. 

In addition, the ISOC Songkhla’s website posted photos during the canvassing of Move Forward Party’s candidates in the municipality of Hat Yai without any caption or explanation. It was reported by other media that the Deputy Director of ISOC Songkhla has asked his officials to follow the Move Forward Party’s candidates and their teams during the canvassing at Sri Trang Market and in the Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai Campus. On the contrary, some government agencies were obviously lending their support to the campaign led by General Prayut Chan-ocha. For example, Phatthalung Public Relations Office’s Facebook Page posted photos during the canvassing of General Prayut and mentioned the Ruam Thai Sang Chart Party on its page, albeit the posts have since been removed. Meanwhile, there have been reports that the authorities made attempts to prevent or impede MP candidates during their activities to canvass for votes, particularly during the annual military conscription in early April. The Move Forward Party’s candidates and their teams were asked not to speak about their campaign to terminate compulsory military draft and were denied access to certain areas. The officials came to disrupt the campaigns, or to ask for personal information and to take photos of some participants. They even threatened to commit physical attack. In addition, some Move Forward Party’s MP candidates were barred by the police from flashing their three fingers during the election campaigns even though it signified their ballot number. The police justified their order by stating that the areas belonged to the military or the Royal Palace. As to the abuse of campaign banners, there have been at least two reported cases. The officials of the Rayong Municipality reportedly removed campaign banners of an MP candidate in constituency II. It was later made known that the authority removed campaign banners of all political parties. When the Move Forward Party’s candidate contacted the authorities to ask for their reasons, the officials claimed that there was going to be a motorcade of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to Rayong. Or in the case of the Election Commission Office in Narathiwat has asked the FAIR Party’s MP candidate to change wording in the campaign banners since it contained the phrase “Patani Self-Administration” as the authority found it might offend the security agencies. The candidate, however, insisted that it was an exercise of their freedoms and rights and just supported decentralization per the Constitution.  

  • Harassment for unknown reasons  

Sophon Surariddhidhamrong, an activist from Mok Luang Rim Nam, clad in his graduation gown, participated in the Stand Stop Imprisonment in front of the Supreme Court and had a group photo at Sanam Luang with his fellow students to mark their graduation. During the time, the students were having a altercation with members of the People’s Center for the Protection of Monarchy (SPPS) who volunteered to patrol the area while the police were monitoring the situation. In addition, he and Tantawan Tuatulanon were surrounded by the SPPS members who hurled stones at them near The Old Siam causing them to get injured and had to be rescued by the police. Moreover, Bai Por and Bung Netiphon revealed that a man in yellow T-Shirt was following them at the condominium since the afternoon. When they drove outside, the man followed them.  

Regarding media harassment, Nutthaphon Phanphongsanon, a photographer from 'Space Bar' news online platform, was followed presumably by plainclothes police from the Metropolitan Police Division 5 during 1-13 April. They even asked from the manager of the condominium in which he lived about his room, his vehicles and incoming and outgoing parcels. They even asked for security camera footage showing him during his arrival and departure from the building citing he was in the watch list.Nutthaphon has raised the issue and complained with the Thai Journalists Association’s Subcommittee on Rights and Freedoms and Media Reform. 

Some activists have been physically attacked including Veha Sanchonchanasuek who was hit with a baseball bat by a man wearing safety helmet causing him to break his arms closer to his residence at night time. He also suffered an injury on the left side of his shin and bruises on the upper part of his arms, legs and back. He was informed by a police patrol unit that the perpetrator was a member of the S Sri Suriyothai Group, one of the royalist factors. He has reported the case with the police already. 

In addition, it has been reported that Anon Klinkaew, Chairperson of the People’s Center for the Protection of Monarchy (SPPS) has said during his Facebook live feed about their reporting the case against Thanalop “Yok” (last name withheld), a 15-year-old child on the violation of Section 112. During his live feed, he insisted on continuing to press charges on the violation of Section 112 and would file more charges against Yok if they can verify that she was the same person with person using “Sahai Nonnoi” as their aliases. They even used vulgar language and threatened to kill Yok, even though she was still remanded in custody.

Trend of harassment against the people in May 2023 

April saw an increase of harassment during the election campaign throughout the country, particularly when MP candidates and their assistants from the opposition parties were canvassing in various provinces. It could be predicted that in May when the election is held and when political parties would be engaged in their intense campaign, the candidates from the opposition parties would continue to face more incidences of harassment.  

Nonetheless, this month saw an increase of harassment against members of the public for unknown reasons. It has often happened with activists involved with activism. Some incidences were so violent and caused physical injuries. All these indicate that the authorities and the pro-monarchy members will still keep a watch on people who express themselves and are engaged in any political activity during their being a participant in public assemblies or even wherever they are present, the pro-democracy activists are vulnerable to harassment by the people holding different views from the