date: 8/8/2023 author: Mob Data Thailand

Report on Public Assembly and Harassment in May 2023


In May, at least 41 demonstrations were organized, at least nine more than in April. Despite the election was held, the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) has still not certified the results prompting people to converge around the issues. The issues that prompted the most public assemblies continue to be a demand of the right to bail. At least 27 public assemblies were held coalescing the issue including at least 23 Stand Stop Imprisonment in front of the Bangkok Supreme Court and at least once at the Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai.

In May, at least 41 demonstrations were organized, at least nine more than in April. Despite the election was held, the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) has still not certified the results prompting people to converge around the issues. The issues that prompted the most public assemblies continue to be a demand of the right to bail. At least 27 public assemblies were held coalescing the issue including at least 23 Stand Stop Imprisonment in front of the Bangkok Supreme Court and at least once at the Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai.

Regarding Yok Thanalop (last name withheld),a 15-year-old child, the youngest to be charged for an offence against Section112, she was remanded in custody at the Ban Pranee Juvenile Vocational Training Center for Girls in Nakhon Pathom since 29 March 2023 and was released on 18 May 2023. During her custody, activists were gathered to demand Yok’s release at least three times including “Walk for Friends” by the Mok Luang Rim Nam. They started walking from the Central Juvenile and Family Court while speaking to criticize the judiciary system and making stops along the way to the Ban Pranee in Nakhon Pathom. They have collected more than 5,000 names online in a petition campaign on the reform of the Central Juvenile and Family Court. Freelance activists including Tantawan Tuatulanon, “Bam” Orawanand Sainamhelped to organize the activity “#SaveYok” at the Samranrat Police Station. They wanted to ask the Superintendent of the police station about reports that he pressed more charges against Yok while she was being remanded in custody. The activity has turned into a violent clash between the police and the protesters. The police decided to use violence to apprehend the nine activists and then pressed charges against them. TheKiam Pattana Democracyorganized “Stand Stop Imprisonment#SaveYok” to stand for 112 minutes to demand the release of Yok to let her carry on with her study in front of the Triam Udom Suksa Pattanakarn School, Yok’s school. It was later reported that two 10th Grade students were summoned by their teachers for reprimanding.

Following the election, the public have focused on the formation of a new coalition and the voting of Prime Ministercandidates. According to the Constitution 2017, if at least 375 votes cannot be secured from the MPs, it would have to rely on more votes from the Senators for the candidate to be accepted as Prime Minister. Therefore, issuesrelevant to the election were the second most reason that prompted people to converge at least five times to demand that the Senators respect the will of the people and vote for the Prime Minister candidate from the party that won most seats. This includes the people in Lampang whoorganized a symbolic action to read out names of the 250 Senators and held a candle vigil with around 20 participants. The Phrae Pro-Democracy Network organized a symbolic action to question how the Senators will vote to elect the Prime Minister. The DemocracyStudent Club of Chiang Mai Universityorganized a symbolic action on “Senators must respect the will of the people, Vote for the Prime Minister candidate from the party that won most seats.”Khana Ratsadon Lanna and North Commoners organizeda mini caravan to draft the Dream Constitution, “What do Chiang Mai people want to tell the Senators?” while lighting candles and incense sticks as an act of cursing according to the Lanna traditional culture. Participants were asked to write banners to send their messages to the Senators as well. The United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration organized"Don’t let anyone steal our dream and hope, Senators must not vote against the will of the people" including two panel discussions and the reading of an open letter in front of the Parliament. At the same time, freelance activists led by Sainamand Eye were holding signs to berate the Senators and oppose Section112. As some participants did not agree with the activity, the guards thus asked the activists to stop it. They then scattered papers with statements to demand the Senatorsmust respect the will of the people.

The next issue was the holding of vigil to commemorate important events. At least three public gatherings were held on the issue. This includes the 13th anniversary of the crackdown of the Red Shirt held by the People to Restore Justice at the Ratchaprasong intersection. The activity was consisted of making offering to Buddhist months, screening videos to recap the incidence, and a candle vigil in memory of the deceased. The Cross-Cultural Foundation (CrCF) organized the “4 Years of Siam Theerawut” event to mark the enforced disappearance against a political exile. It highlighted how his family has been fighting for his justice and the importance of the Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act.10The Workers' Union and other people put up a large banner that read “Holding the NCPO accountable, 3 P. must go to jail" on the Skywalk, Pathumwan intersection, in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) to mark the 9th anniversary of the military coup by the National Council for Peace (NCPO).

As to environmental issues, at least one public assembly was held including the people in Tambon Rueso Ok, Rueso District, Narathiwat who were gathered to oppose granite quarry mine in the area and a public hearing related to the application for concessionary licenses given their concern about the health and environmental impacts. None of the participants in the public hearing agreed with the project.

In addition, public assemblies were held on other issues at least two times including the six activistsin Chiang Mai have gone to answer to charges concerning “defamation of the Constitution Court” while police forces including more than 30 officials in uniform and in plainclothes were deployed in front of the police station. The police tried to snatch from the protesters the banner that read “Reform the Judiciary” as they tried to unfurl it before answering the charges. The activists also held a Performance Art gesturing to dismantling spirit house as a symbolic action as well. Businesses and civil society organizations organized the “Chiang Mai Pride 2023” with the multicolor parade to promote gender equality and organized outdoor film screening.

This month, the People’s Center for the Protection of Monarchy (SPPS)has led at least three public assemblies includingthe activity “#save112” to hold banners to campaign against the proposed amendments or repeal of Section112 while blaring the song “We Love the Land” and marching in Ayutthaya. They have even gone to the US Embassy to hand a letter to demand the US steer clear from interfering with Thailand’s internal affairs, particularly on the issues about the monarchy at least twice at the US Embassy in Bangkok and US Consulate in Chiang Mai.

Update on legal cases and harassment against the public as of May2023

May2023 just before the election was held, the US Congresswoman Susan Wild submitted to the Congress H.Res. 369 urging the Government of Thailand to protect and uphold democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. In the draft resolution, she demands a reform of the laws being used to restrict people’s rights ahead of the election including Section112 and the Computer Crimes Act and demands release of political prisoners. Following the election, the formation of a new coalition thus captured the attention of the public.

Nonetheless,this month saw individuals being charged for violating Section112 in seven more cases including three children and youth, one of them was charged at only 14 years and one month old, the youngest ever to be charged with the Section. As to the charges concerning theEmergency Decree, one more individual has been charged. Meanwhile, most of the decisions made by the Courts tend to be a dismissal of the cases.

Since the Free Youth led public assemblies on 18 July 2020 until 31 May2023, at least 1,914 individuals have been charged for participating in public assemblies or expressing their political opinions in 1,218 cases. Of this, 359 cases have reached the final verdicts leaving more than 859 active cases pending in various stages of the procedure.

Of these cases, 215 cases are against 286 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 April 2023, 12 more individuals have been charged in 15 new cases (counting only those who have never been charged before.) Altogether, there have been at least 3,851 legal actions against the individuals although some of them are charged for multiple offences.

This month, nine activists have been charged for participating in the “Whoever want to throw, whoever want to scold, please do so #SaveYok” at the Samranrat Police Station. They wanted to ask the Superintendent of the police station about reports that he pressed more charges against Yok, a 15-year-old youth, The activity has turned into a violent clash between the police and the protesters leading to the arrest of the nine activists while several of them sustain physical injuries. They were pressed with four charges and held in custody at a police station for two days before being bailed out.

Detail of key offences can be described as follows;

1. “Lese majeste” offence pursuant to the Penal Code’s Section112, at least 250 suspects in 269cases

This month saw eight more individuals charged on the offence in seven cases. Three of them are under police investigation includingTheeramet (last name withheld), anactivist with intellectual disabilities, who has been summoned to answer the charges in Phatthalung. His authorized attorney has gone to the Royal Thai Police asking for the inquiry official to conduct the interview outside the area. Songphon Sonthirakhas gone to answer to the charges after flashing three fingers during a graduation ceremony and giving an interview to “Thalu Mor Kor” Facebook page and “The Isaan Record” as well as to participate in public assemblies with various groups during 2020 and 2021. Charan” (pseudonym)was arrested. In addition, charges have been pressed against May (pseudonym), a 16-year-old youth who was 14 years and one month oldduring the commission of the crime. She has become the youngest ever person to be accused of violating Section112 following her posting Facebook messages about the activities of the King. It has also been reported that a child younger than 15 has been accused of violating Section112 at the Muang Phitsanulok Police Station, although there is no further detail.

At least five individuals in four cases have been prosecuted. This includes Parit Chiwarak, for posting Facebook messages and photos to criticize the revocation of bail of activists by the Thanyaburi Provincial Court and the Bangkok Criminal Court on 9 August 2021. Kittikhun Thammajittirat and Thidaphon Chaokhuwiang was charged for producing the Lazada advertisement in collaboration with “Nara Crepe Katoey” around May2022. The prosecutor indicated that the advertisement was made to make a mockery of the royal family members. Ton Phai (pseudonym)was indicted in two cases including 20 counts for allegedly using Facebook “Parasite Monarchy” and twitter handles “Guillotine Activists for Democracy” and “Guillotine2475” to post messages about the monarchy between November 2021 and March 2022. According to the prosecutor, the act intended to raise unrest and to mislead the public as well as to encourage them to oppose the monarchy. Kay (pseudonym), a 17-year-old youth (when the crime took place) was indicted for shooting slingshot and setting fire on an honorary arch in Din Daeng during the public assembly by the Thalu Gas on 6 September 2021.

Verdicts have been delivered this month in eight cases. In five of them, the defendants plead guilty to charges includingSaichon (pseudonym)for posting video via TikTok to lip sync the song “King in fairy tales” in August 2021. He was convicted and sentenced to an imprisonment ofthree years, which was reduced by a half to one year and six months with two years of suspension and one year of probation. Patihan (last name withheld) accused of posting comments in Somsak Jeamteerasakul’s Facebook Page concerning the rumors about the ailment of King Rama X on12 May2021 was convicted and sentenced to an imprisonment ofthree years, which was reduced by a half to one year and six months, although he was bailed out. One member of the public accused of making a comment during the livestreaming of the page “People’s Center for the Protection of Monarchy” was convicted and sentenced to an imprisonment ofthree years. Given their guilty plea, the imprisonment was reduced by a half to one year and six months. Supitsara (pseudonym) accused of posting four Facebook messages was convicted and sentenced to an imprisonment of three years per count, which was reduced to one year and six months per count. Altogether, she was to serve four years and24 months with the imprisonment suspended for two years. In addition, Veha Sanchonchanasuekaccused of posting messages via the “Sky and rain ver. Torrential” to recount his experience while doing his time at the Thawee Wattana Prison during 2021 was convicted and sentenced in three counts to an imprisonment of three years per count, which was reduced to one yearand six months. altogetheran imprisonment ofthree years and18 monthswithout suspension and was denied bail. He has since been remanded at the Bangkok Remand Prison on 18 May2023. In addition, Virus (pseudonym)who was accused of posting three Facebookmessages and two TikTok messages about Kings Rama IX and X between 30 April to 7 May2021 and indicted on five counts and pleaded guilty to the charges, was convicted and sentenced to an imprisonment of 15 years, which was reduced by a half to five years and30 months with suspension for three years while having his cellphone seized as evidence.

Two cases have been dismissed including Siriwanchalee Wittayasereewat, aka Ramil for his Performance Art at the entrance sign of Chiang Mai Universityon1 May2021. He was accused of making various postures including the Garuda’s posture while laying upward and having his feet pointing at the portrait of King Rama X. The Court stated that the prosecution evidence failed to prove his intent to threaten the King.Narin (last name withheld) was accused of posting a “Kukult” sticker on the portrait of King Rama X in front of the Supreme Court during the public assembly on19 September 2020. While the Lower Court found him guilty and sentenced him to an imprisonment ofthree yearssince he tried to show how he was greater than the King, the Appeals Court acquitted him pointing out Narin’s dress was not like the perpetrator in this case.

In addition to the onslaught of indictments on Section 112, there have been no reports of the non-prosecution orders in such cases. It is also worrying that the interpretation of Section 112 tends to be so vague and this has led to unreasonable verdicts. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Thailand is a state party protects individuals who exercise their right to freedom of expression under Article 19 and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly under Article 21. In addition, the UN Human Rights Committee has raised concern about lese majeste laws around the world by stating that all public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition. Criticisms of public institutions should not be prohibited. Even though certain accusations on lese majeste may be perceived of involving an act of defamation, but the Committee holds that “imprisonment shall never be an appropriate sanction in all such cases.”

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

This month saw one prosecution against an individual on the charge Chonthicha Kumchan-ad, a near-term pregnant woman whose arrest warrant was executed by the police in Pattaya and was brought to the Phayathai Police Station for allegedly participating in in the #Mob21Oct20 and was previously charged for violating the Notification to declare the serious emergency. She was later bailed out.

Nonetheless,verdicts on the charges against the Emergency Decreecontinue to split, including dismissal and conviction. In May, verdicts were delivered in four cases, one of which was a dismissal including the case against Chonticha Jaengrew who was accused of organizing a public assembly on24 September 2020, in front of the Parliament. The rest was all conviction verdicts including againstNawaphon Tonngam and Panadda Sirimatkul for organizing an activity to submit a letter to demand resignation from government in front of the Palang Pracharath Partyon30 July 2021. The Court convicted and sentenced them to an imprisonment ofone year and a fine of 10,000 bahtand 200 baht for an unauthorized use of amplifier. The sentences were reduced by half to an imprisonment ofsix months and a fine of 5,100 baht with one year of suspension. Hassan Thingpaktham, Theerathep Chitlang andSuppawit Sae-ama were accused of organizing Satun CarMob on10 August2021. The Court found them guilty as charged and sentenced them to one year with suspension. Waranyou Khonsathittham, Makarapong Sapprasert and Methanut Kopha were accused of organizing “Car Mob Korat: Caravan to topple dictators” on23 July2021 and another public assembly by Korat Movement in front of the Provincial Police Region 3. In both cases, the Lower Courts have acquitted them. However, the Appeals Court has ruled that for the public assembly, the Court upheld the Lower Court’s verdict. But for the Car Mob Korat on 23 July2021 case, the Appeals Court modified the verdict to convict defendants no.1 and 2 for organizing a public assembly which might spread the disease and sentenced them to a fine of 2,000 bahteach, while acquitting defendant no. 3.

Until now, the Emergency Decree has constantly been used against many those exercising their right to freedom of public assembly, particularly those criticizing the performance of the government. Such acts are protected under Article 21 of the ICCPR regarding freedom of expression and information, and under Article 19 of the ICCPR on freedom of expression, under Article 12 of the ICCPR on freedom of movement, and under Article 25 on the rights to take part in the conduct of public affairs. Nonetheless, such prosecutions have to be carried out as necessary and proportionately. And according to Article 4 of the ICCPR, a state party may derogate from its obligations under the ICCPR as necessarily and proportionately depending on the exigencies of the situation. Thailand has since informed the Sectary General of the United Nations for the derogation between 26 March 2020 to 30 April 2020. No additional communication has been made to inform the Sectary General of the United Nations about the extension of the Declaration of the State of Emergency. As a result, Thailand could not have exercised its right to derogate from its obligations under ICCPR since after 30 June 2020.

4. An offence against the Public Assembly Act, at least 147 suspects in 80 cases

One more case has been taken against Chatchai Pumpuang, Prim Maneeschot and Surat Kiri, from a labour rights group and they have since gone to answer to the charges under the Public Assembly Act for participating in a public assembly to mark the International Labour Day. While Surat agreed to pay 2,100 baht as a fine to end the case, the other two accused insisted on fighting the charges to uphold the rights of workers who have participate in such public assemblies every year.

5. An offence against the Computer Crimes Act, at least 176 suspects in 194 cases

Charges under the Computer Crimes Act’sSection16, defamation and defamation of public official have been pressed against Dr. Suphat Hasuwankit, Chair of Rural Doctor Club for allegedly posting messages to raise unrest and to give false information and accuse the Minister of Public Health of ordering the closure of gates because of the public assemblies. He has since answered to the charges at the Nonthaburi Police Station.

Verdicts have been delivered this month in three cases. Two of them saw the dismissal of case against Pannika Wanich, for posting messages between 2013-2014 including the "Long Song Prophecy for Ayutthaya" which was accused of defaming the monarchy and the case against Ngamsaenluang Singchalerm for posting a message suggesting that tear gas was fired from the Boon Rawd Brewery during the crackdown of the public assembly by the Ratsadon close to the Parliament on17 November 2020.In both cases, the Courts ruled similarly that such messages were not entirely tantamount to inputting false data in whole or in part into a computer system which may cause panic to society. In addition, the Appeals Court also modified the Lower Court’s verdict in the case against Noppawan Suwan for sharing a post and photos from Thai Rath in a Facebook Chat Group “Khon Muang Nan Weekend Market”, which indicated that a new virus strain, H3N2 was found in China’s Wuhan. In this case, the Appeals Court modified the verdict from an imprisonment of8 monthswithout suspension to a fine of 60,000 baht, reduced by one third to 40,000 baht.

6. A contempt of court, at least 36 suspects in 20 cases, and insult of the court, at least 34 suspects in 10 cases

At least six more individuals have been charged on this offence in one case against Sitphon Ditcharoen, Nutthachai Sticharoen, Pitsinee Chaithaweetham, Wittaya Chaikhamla, Theeraphon Pudthasi andThanadon Chanthararat for organizing a protest against the Constitution Court’s decision on the eight years of tenure of General Prayut Chan-ocha in Chiang Mai.

Moreover, a private entity has sued individuals for defamation by publication in both civil and criminal cases. This includesThanapol Eawsakul who was sued by Top News for posting a message to suggest that Top News has spread fake news requesting for 20 million baht as damages. Sarinee Achavanuntakul was sued by Gulf Energy Development PLC for the same offence requesting for 100 million bahtas damages. Previously, several politicians have been sued on the same offence including MP Rangsiman Rome, MP Bencha Saengchantra and Dr. Narong Dejwikorm.

Harassment against Individuals following the Freedom of Expression and Assembly

This month saw just a few cases of harassment. Reported cases of harassment have been against children and youth including Yok, a 15-year-old youth, who was later remanded in custody at Ban Pranee in Nakhon Pathom on charges concerning Section112. It has prompted activists to come out and demand her release, leading to cases of harassment. The Mok Luang Rim Nam organized Walk for Friends walking from the Central Juvenile and Family Courtin Bangkok to Ban Pranee, Sam Pran District, Nakhon Pathom. On the same day, Ban Pranee’s Director ordered a suspension of family visit for five days citing safety of the children and youth under her care. In addition, Director of the Juvenile Observation Center in Bangkok has prohibited legal advisor from visiting Yok citing the person was not an attorney appointed by the Court even though the person served as attorney of Yok as an injured party.

After the Friends of Yok organized the Stand Stop Imprisonment in Triam Udom Suksa Pattanakarn School, it was reported that two students in Grade Ten who participated in such activity were summoned by their teachers and got reprimanded about putting up a sign inside the school. They were also told that their scores would not be deducted this time, but next time, the teachers would ask for a meeting with their parents.

In addition to a campaign to have Yok released, according to Tantawan Tuatulanon,a plainclothes police official has taken photo of activists who participated in the 13th anniversary of the crackdown on the demonstration of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD). Given the pressure from the participants, the police agreed to delete all photos.

Harassment due to political activities asides, there was also harassment due to unknown reasons. For example, according to Ngernta Kamsen, she has been visited at home by police officials who claimed to come from Lat Prao Police Station and from investigation unit of the Metropolitan Police Division 4 in over one and a half months. It was unclear as to which laws have been invoked to carry out such visits.

Nonetheless,it has also been reported that Aey (pseudonym) was forced to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a group of individuals who claimed to be a part of the “Minion Army” with connection with military officers. She had to do so in exchange of not being charged for Section112, after a captured photo was taken showing her comment in a Facebook Page in April 2023. A military officer has sent to her supervisor the captured photo to complain about her conduct. On the day, she signed the MoU, a woman who claimed to be a part of the “Minion Army” and another three individuals who could be three military officers, all clad in plainclothes wearing a crop haircut, have come to her office to force her to sign the MoU. She also had to agree to act in compliance with several requirements including having to greet the royal family members during their visits, having to write a report about the contribution of the monarchy and having to give special class to 100 youth and sent to the “Minion Army” the video of the teaching.

Trend of harassment against the people in June 2023

According to a report that an individual was forced by the “Minion Army” to sign an MoU in exchange of not being sued on the case against Section112, it is a testament to the abuse of Section 112 to persecute a political dissenter. In addition, more acts of harassment have been carried out against children and youth who have demanded the release of Yok. This shows that the issue about monarchy continues to be sensitive for the authorities and members of the pro-monarchy movement who continue to keep their close vigil on the public. Any political activity, including public assemblies or even a visit of a pro-democracy activist, could become a target of harassment by people who hold a different opinion. Therefore, it is projected that whether an incidence of harassment will increase or decrease in June, it depends on the number of public assemblies and intensity of the issues presented. The more the public assemblies, the more likely the acts of harassment by the authorities are to prevent any political activity.