date: 10/11/2023 author: Faozee Lateh

Report on Public Assembly and Harassment in July 2023


According to the observation and documentation by Amnesty International Thailand and iLaw via Mob Data Thailand in July 2023, it could be summarized that at least 73 public assemblies were organized throughout the country

Overview Situation of Public Assembly

During July 2023, the political situation has become more intense. Following the publishing of the Royal Decree to open the new session of the Parliament of the 26th House of Representatives, after the general election on 14 May 2023, the Parliament was scheduled to meet to vote to elect the 30th Prime Minister of Thailand for the first round on 13 July 2023. Amidst reports of opposition from the Senators who pledged to note vote for Pita Limjaroenrat, a candidate from the Move Forward Party, as PM even though his party has wone the largest votes. And the outcome was Pita failed to garnered over the half of the joint-sitting votes

Prior to this (12 July 2023), the Office of Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) has filed the case with the Constitutional Court to have the court review eligibility of Pita Limjaroenrat, Leader of the MFP and PM candidate as an MP since he has allegedly owned shares in ITV PLC.

It has immediately prompted Arnon Nampa to call for a public assembly the same afternoon at the Skywalk, Pathumwan intersection to demand the joint-sitting of the Parliament to elect a PM candidate based on the election results and the popular support. Several public assemblies were also held throughout the country during the same week. On 19 July 2023, theConstitutional Court, by 7: 2, ruled to accept to review the case filed by the ECT to rule according to the Constitution’s Section 82 if the parliamentary membership of Pita Limjaroenrat, Leader of the MFP and PM candidate, might have ceased according to the Constitution’s Section 101 (6) coupled with Section 98 (3) or not as a result of his ownership of 42,000 shares in ITV PLC. The Court was also asked to suspend the membership of Pita temporarily until the final ruling is made.

According to the observation and documentation by Amnesty International Thailand and iLaw via Mob Data Thailand in July 2023, it could be summarized that at least 73 public assemblies were organized throughout the country.The issues that have prompted such public gatherings are, however, different from those held in June since this time their key demand is for the joint-sitting of the Parliament to elect a PM candidate based on the election results and the popular support. The public assemblies were held in various provinces. In Bangkok, 29 public assemblies were held including the one called for by Arnon Nampa at the Skywalk, Pathumwan intersection, before the day the Parliament was to elect the PM for the first time and the Car Mob to hand to Commanders of the Armed Forces to resign as a member of the Senate. The Constitution Advocacy Alliance (CALL) also organized a public assembly to monitor the voting of the PM candidate under the Respect My Vote campaign at the Chaloem Phrakiat Kiakkai Public Park. A mass rally was organized at the lawn of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) on 19 July to perform a mock funeral of the Senators. Students of Kasetsat University organized a public assembly called “Let’s Get Rid of the Heinous Senators” and then the first and second Prompt Mobs were organized by Sombat Boongarmanong.

There were also at least 44 public assemblies on the same topic held in the provinces including Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Lampang, Nakhon Ratchasima, Ubonratchathani, Surin, Phitsanulok, Phichit, Nan, Sisaket, Autthaya, Uttaradit, Nakhon Pathom, Lamphun, Chiang Rai, Phayao, Roi-et, Tak, Surat Thani, and Nakhon Si Thammarat, etc. The second most popular issue to prompt public assemblies was the demand for the right to bail including the Stand, Stop, Tyranny every Saturday in Chiang Mai and the Stand Stop Imprisonment in front of the Bangkok Supreme Court in Bangkok, the last of which took place on 5 July 2023 to mark its 365th day. The group in Bangkok decided to call off the public assembly temporarily. There were also public assemblies around the environmental issue by the villagers of Khao Kala, Nakhon Sawan, who were protesting against the EIA of the cement quarry fearing the potential impacts which might affect ecological balance and the public assemblies led by the Hug Thung Kul Network in Roi-et who protested against the EIA of sugar factory and biomass power plant. As to public assemblies around international issues, the Myanmar people living in Thailand have gathered in front of the UN Headquarters in Bangkok on Ratchadamnoen Nok Rd. to protest against the Myanmar regime and on the birthday of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Public assemblies were held by the the Centre of the People for the Protection of Monarchy.

Opinions on the performance of officials to facilitate public assembly according to the Public Assembly Act B.E. 2558

In July, the Public Assembly Act was enforced strictly since various public assemblies have been organized countrywide. We have some observation regarding the enforcement of the PAS as follows;

The Network of the Khon Hug Thung Kila notified the authorities of its intention to organize a public assembly at the Roi Et Provincial Hall on 10 July 2023. The Roi Et Police Station which received such notification has issued a letter containing a summary of the public assembly to inform the notifier and to invoke the National Council for Peace (NCPO) Order no. 3/2558 that “any expression during the public assembly which may be sensitive and may constitute a breach of the National Council for Peace (NCPO) Order no. 3/2558, the organizers are therefore requested to take precaution against such expression and to ensure the participants refrain from committing an act which appears to impede or oppose the performance of duties of the government.”

Before the joint-sitting of the Parliament to elect a PM candidate, there were reports quoting sources from security agencies that there would a large gathering of people at the Parliament to monitor the voting to elect the next PM. On 11 July 2023, theMetropolitan Police Bureauissued an order stating that

Such public gathering might affect maintenance of public order, and to ensure public safety, and to ensure the peaceful management of public assembly, invoking the Public Assembly Act B.E. 2558’s Section 7, last paragraph, and coupled with the Order of the Royal Thai Police no. 151/2560 dated 28 March 2017 and the Order of the Metropolitan Police Bureau no. 196/2023 dated 12 April, the area within 50 meters from the Parliament is therefore declared as an off-limits area for public assembly. Detail of the order to declare an off-limits area for public assembly around the Parliament is included in the annex. Effective from 12 July 2023, at 06.00, until 15 July 2023, at 24.00.”

Meanwhile, on 12 July 2023, the Rachawinit School called off its school sessions on 13 July 2023 citing it has received a request from the Special Service Division (SSD) to use the school as an assembly area for 170 officers on that day until their mission was completed. On 13 July 2023, public assembly observers from Mob data Thailand reported that the authorities placed cargo containers to close off Sam Sen Road at Kiak Kai Intersection and along the Thahan Road adjacent to the Parliament. Barmed wires were installed to closed off entrance to an overpass at the Kiak Kai Intersection as well.

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

Compared with the numbers at the end of June 2023,two persons were freshly charged in four cases (counting only people who have never been charged before.). Altogether, there have been at least 3,878 legal actions against the individuals although some of them are charged for multiple offences.

Detail of key offences can be described as follows;

1. “Lese majeste” offence pursuant to the Penal Code’s Section112, at least 253suspects in 273cases

More individuals were charged for the violation of Section 112 in two cases. Where there are five individuals being remanded in custody.

At least one more person was charged for the violation of Section112 in two cases including Chiratchaya Sakulthong, aka “Jinny”, who faces the charge for the first time. On 12July2023, the police have placed her under arrest and charged her at the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD). It was related to her Facebook live streaming while travelling to participate in the #Mob25July, the Candle procession to oust the PM on 25 July2022. In another case, the Lumphini Police Station has summoned two students from Thammasat University to answer to fresh charges against them as a result of their participating in the #Mob3Sept2021 claiming their speeches were found offensive to the monarchy. Kiattichai “Big” Tangpornphan has gone to answer to the charges on 24 July2023. The police also said they have summoned Benja Apan, but she has yet received the summons.

In the past month, the Lower Court has delivered judgments in at least four cases including the two not-guilty cases against youth, “Bell” and “Sainam”, tried by the Juvenile Court in Phatthalung and the Juvenile Court in Bangkok, respectively. Both were found guilty as charged against Section112. For Sainam, the Court has suspended his jail term, while for Bell, the imprisonment was converted into training at the Children and Youth Training Center for two years, although the defendant has been bailed out to appeal the case.

In the other cases in which the defendants pled guilty, two judgments were issued by the two Courts. The South Bangkok Court convicted “Anucha” for holding a vinyl banner during the #MobPoliceDefeatingElephant and sentenced him to one year and six months without suspension, although he has been bailed out to appeal the case. The Criminal Court convicted “Wat” for posting to commend the work of King Rama IX while criticizing King Rama X, and sentenced him to the same imprisonment. His bail application was referred to the Appeals Court and he has been denied bail until now. The uncertain conditions and inconsistencies remain a key challenge as to the right to bail for suspects in cases against Section112.

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 (since May 2020 when such offence has been invoked against people engaged in political activities)

Charges against public assembly participants and people engaged in political activities)

At the end of July, severalactivists started to receive summons issued by the Phlapphla Chai 2 Police Station to answer to charges concerning the Public Assembly Actin two such cases, there were as many as 19suspects (one of whom was charged in two cases).

Both cases were related to activities during the APEC 2022 conference in November 2022 even though it happened more than eight months ago, but the police just started to issue summons. In the first case, for a public assembly to demand #TheEyesOfPhayu in Yaowarat area, eight persons were charged, and some of them have answered to the charges. In another case related to the APEC conference on 15 November 2022, 12 more persons were summoned and they were supposed to answer to the charges on 9 August2023.

As to cases concerning the Emergency Decree related to the public assembles from 2020-2022, in the past month, the Courts have dismissed four such cases including the CarMob case in Nakhon Si Thammarat, the CarMob case in Uttaradit (although the Appeals Court Region 6 later overturned the verdict), the color paint throwing case at the Bhumjaithai Party, and the case against youth arrested at the Major Cineplex Ratchayothin just before the start of the #Mob6March2021. In several such cases, the Court ruled that such activities were the lawful exercise of the constitutional rights.

On the contrary, the Court has given guilty verdicts in three cases concerning the Emergency Decree in the past month. In two such cases, the Courts imposed a fine. For the case against “Ear”, the youngest ever defendant indicted for participating in public assembly, the Court found him guilty as charged for participating in the public assemblies in Din Daeng. However, considering he was just 12 years old, the Court did not imposed any sentencing on him, but simply gave him a verbal warning and let him go.

4. An offence against the Public Assembly Act, at least 162 suspects in 82 cases

5. An offence against the Computer Crimes Act, at least 181 suspects in 199 cases

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

Of the 1,230 cases, 385 have reached the final verdicts leaving more than 845 active cases pending in various stages of the procedure.

Persons held in custody in political cases as of July 2023

Throughout July,two more individuals were remanded in custody including “Prawit”,for allegedly setting fire on traffic box, and “Wat”in Section 112 case since their bail applications were denied by the Appeals Court pending the appeals process. This happened even though they had been granted bail during the trials by the Lower Courts and had never appeared to abscond. All other persons previously remanded in custody have been denied bail. The main offences used against them are either involved with the violation of Section 112 or having in possession explosive material.

Prawit,a 20-year-old-delivery worker, has been remanded in custody in the Bangkok Remand Prison while appealing the case since 11 July 2023. He was convicted by the Criminal Court and sentenced to 12 years and eight months of imprisonment, which was then reduced to six years and four months given his guilty plea. He was accused of setting fire on traffic box under the Din Daeng Expressway during the #CarMobToOustTyranny on 10 August 2021.

Wat,a 29-year-old-barber, has been remanded in custody in the Bangkok Remand Prison while appealing the case since 17 July 2023. He was convicted by the Criminal Court and sentenced to three years of imprisonment, which was then reduced to one year and six months given his guilty plea, but without suspension in the case for the violation of Section 112 and the Computer Crimes Act’s Section 14 (3) after posting a message in Facebook to commend King Rama IX while criticizing King Rama X on 18 October 2020.

Last month saw the imprisonment of one more person in a political case which has reached the final verdict including “Ekkachai Hongkangwan”. Meanwhile, one person has since been released including “Khathathon” after serving all his jail term. Such change has restored the number of persons remanded in custody in political cases to at least ten.

Ekkachai, 48, has been imprisoned as a convicted prisoner in the Bangkok Remand Prisoner since 6 July 2023 following his sentencing to one year without suspension in a case concerning his writing an account about his sex life while being incarcerated in prison in 2017. He has since been convicted for the violation of the Computer Crimes Act’s Section 14(4).

Until now (1August 2023, at least 19 individuals are being incarcerated in prison in political cases including nine individuals being remanded in custody, and 10 convicted prisoners. Among those nine individuals whose right to bail has been denied, more than half, five of them, have been charged for violating Section112 including Wuth, Theepakon, Weha, Warunee, and Wat while the rest three have been charged for having in possession Ping Pong bombs including “Thee” Thiranai, “Mind” Chaiyaphon, and “Marck”, Chanadol. The other person, “Prawit”, has been charged for setting fire on traffic box.

The state of restriction and violation of rights and harassment by public officials due to the exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly as of July2023

In July, at least five cases of restriction and violation of rights were found in educational institutions including at least four cases concerning the exercise of the right to bodily autonomy and one case of political expression. Amidst the controversies concerning the election of the PM in the Parliament, it has galvanized the exercise of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression outside and has led to at least two cases of harassment by public officials.

Restriction and violation of the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression

Pursuant to the denial of entry into school of “yok”, The Bad StudentFacebook Page reported on14July2023that the Triam Udom Suksa Pattanakarn School has reported no progress in terms of their meeting with the parents and public authorities to prevent any disruption to the school’s education and to make the parents feel comfortable. The School, therefore, allows Yok to sit in the exam9nation and to prepare the information for her further referral.

Amidst the trending exercise of the right to bodily autonomy including through one’s hairstyle and attire, the Bad Student Page reported three incidences concerning the issue. For example, at a private girl school in Bangkok, a senior high school student had her study suspended for one year after dressing casually to attend school for one day without receiving any written warning.1In another school in Chonburi’s Sri Racha District, a student had their hair cut by the teacher during the class since their hair was too long. The school even threatened to expel the student. At a school in Ratchaphruek, an MoU was made among the school, the parents and the students. Part of it includes 20 rules which are compulsory only for the parents and the students including being compelled to act in compliance with school rules, prohibition against aggressiveness, prohibition against damaging school’s reputation, prohibition against criticizing school via social media, etc. At the end of the document, it mentions that if the students and the parents are unable to act in compliance with the rules, they shall agree to have their names erased from the school registration without seeking any recourse against the School.

As to the exercised of political expression in educational institutions, there was one case whereby the School ordered the stoppage of such activity. On 24July2023, the students of the Faculty of Social Science, Chiang Mai University, hoisted a banner which read “Stop Using Immoral Power” after which they were pressured by the university to remove the banner.4

Harassment by government officials following the exercise of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression

The Krabi Mai Thon Facebook Page reported that on 13July2023, around 16.00, in Krabi, three police officials from the Krabi Muang Police Station with firearms have come to the office of the Move Forward Party while people were inside to watch the televised voting of the PM.

Among those present there, they felt terrified as they were simply watching news on TV. Previously, about five plainclothes police officials also came to the office. Then, the police in uniform came afterward. The police explained that they were there just to monitoring the situation.

The “Here Ma Kha Phonlamai” Facebook Page reported that in Chonburi around 11.40am on 24 July2023, the plainclothes police came to inquire them about any plan to organize any activity after the Page posted a message about an activity to “Mourn the 25 million votes which have been made meaningless” on23 Julyat the Sriracha Town Municipality Public Park.