date: 10/11/2023 author: Faozee

An Overview Of Public Assemblies And Harassment Following The Gatherings August and September 2023


In May 2022, there have been at least 52 public assemblies and expressions throughout the country, about one third more than those in April (when 35 public assemblies happened.) This includes at least 34 activities to show symbolic action to demand the right to bail of political activists who have been remanded in custody

Overview Situation of Public Assembly

According to the observation and documentation by Amnesty International Thailand and iLaw via the Mob Data Thailand Project, in August, despite the tense political situation, the number of public assemblies has declined compared to July with at least 15 public assemblies nationwide, mostly in the province about10 times. Their most popular demand was the right to bail for political activists. This included the Stand, Stop, Tyranny every Saturday in Chiang Mai at least 4 times. This was followed by the issue concerning the right to land and the environment, two times including the public assembly of villagers of Ban Mae Siang, Moo 7, Tambon Some Kwa, Soem Ngam District, Lampang to oppose Mae Siang mining project, the public assembly by residents in San Phi Suea, Chiang Mai, against the construction of ‘Leng Nei Yi’ Chinese temple like the one in Yaowarat, and at leastfour other public assemblies on the rescinding of old age allowance, on issues concerning ethnic minorities, and the demand for the parliamentary voting of Prime Minister that reflected the will of the people. At least five public assemblies were held in Bangkok related to the voting of the Prime Minister and how the Pheu Thai Party has led the formation of the new coalition and the possible coalition with some parties of the former government. It has prompted such public assemblies to take place on the issue at leastthree times including CarMob “Hae Malai Wiwa Klong Jai” led by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration and the public assembly “Lai Noo Tee Ngoo Hao…Phuen Wag” led by the Mok Luang Rim Nam and the public assembly “Shedding Light on the Path” by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration. In addition, at least two other public assemblies were organized on the first anniversary of the death of Warit, the boy who was shot dead during the public assembly in front of the Din Daeng Police Station in 2021 and on foreign issue including the arrests of activists from Myanmar.

In September,there was a transition to the new government as on 22 August 2023, it was voted by 482:165 in the National Assembly for Srettha Thavisin to become the next Prime Minister. Of this, 152 supporting votes for the candidate from the Pheu Thai Party came from the Senators. On 2 September2023, the appointment of the Ministers was published in the Government Gazette website including members of the cabinets mixed up with members of the parties that used to join the former coalition. The number of public assemblies has, however, not increased compared to August. There were altogether at least 15 public assemblies nationwide, at least 10 times in Bangkok, including the public assembly to demand the right to bail “The Judges of Death” led by Tantawan Tuatulanon, the public assembly to demand solutions to the issues that affect the Bang Kloi ethnic Karen community according to the resolutions of the Independent Committee to Investigate the Facts and Solve the Problems of the Bang Kloi Ethnic Karen Community, led by the SaveBangKloi Alliance, the public assembly to demand the Prime Minister to endorse the Draft Act to Prohibit Discrimination against a Person by the civil society alliance, the public assembly by Myanmar workers in Thailand against the Dictator Min Aung Hlaing, led by the Bright Future, the public assembly to demand the government to enforce the labour law led by the Labour Network for People Rights, the public assembly on the drafting of the new Constitution led by the Constitutional Alliance, thepublic assembly to submit a letter of petition to the Ministry of Justice to transfer Ekkachai Hongkangwan to the Thammasat Hospital to receive medical treatment led by freelance civic groups, the public assembly to submit a letter of petition to the Pheu Thai Party to promptly legalize the delivery raiders by the Grab Raiders Group, and the two public assemblies by Amnesty International Thailand to demand the right to bail.

Update on legal cases against the public (with reference to THLR)

August saw a few fresh cases both concerning Section 112 and other cases stemming from public assemblies. Meanwhile, cases related to the public assemblies during 2020-2022 have reached a conclusion and the Courts start to gradually read verdicts on such cases. This includes at least ten cases on Section and at least 11 cases related to the Emergency Decree. There is an increase in the number of individuals being incarcerated in prison in various cases. Similar to September, there is an increase of the number of individuals being imprisoned for expressing their political opinion. In just one month, the Trial Courts have read verdicts in four cases concerning Section 112 while the Appeals Court delivered verdicts in two morecases. Three of the convicted defendants were denied bail. There were five fresh cases concerning public assemblies and one new case related to the Computer Crime Act. All of them were related to the activities organized under the regime led by General Prayut Chan-ocha.

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), since the Free Youth led public assemblies on 18 July 2020 until 30 September 2023, at least 1,928 individuals have been charged for participating in public assemblies or expressing their political opinions in 1,249 cases. Of these cases, 216 cases are against 286 youth under 18 years of age.

Compared with August 2023, three more individuals have been charged in eight new cases (counting only those who have never been charged before.) Altogether, there have been at least 3,922legal actions against the individuals although some of them are charged for multiple offences.

Septembersaw five new cases stemming from political assemblies including four cases for violating the Public Assembly Act. This includes the activity #OutingTheSeawritePoet to demand the removal of Naowarat Pongpaiboon as Senator, which took place in front of the Ministry of Culture on 6August2023, the motorcycle caravan to demand the release of political prisoners at the Grand Palace, the wearing of prisoner uniform at Siam Paragon and in front of the Police General Hospital. In another case, the Lumphini Police Station’s police retrospectively summoned four activists to answer to charges for failure to notify the authorities before organizing a public assembly and other petty charges stemming from the activity “WHAT HAPPENED IN THAILAND” and the march from Asoke Intersection to the APEC2022 conference on 17November 2022 to submit a letter of petition to all leaders attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2022 from 16-19 November at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre (QSNCC). The legal action was initiated tend months after the alleged acts were committed. In another case, an individual was charged for lighting up firecrackers illegally during a public assembly in front of the Pheu Thai Party.

Detail of key offences can be described as follows;

1. “Lese majeste” offence pursuant to the Penal Code’s Section112, at least 258suspects in 280cases

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)

4. An offence against the Public Assembly Act, at least 177 suspects in 88 cases

5. An offence against the Computer Crimes Act, at least 186 suspects in 205 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 1,249cases, 429have reached the final verdicts leaving more than 820active cases pending in various stages of the procedure.

Until now (1 October 2023, at least 35 individuals are being incarcerated in prison in political cases including 25 individuals being remanded in custody, and 10 convicted prisoners.In the past September,six more individuals have been remanded in custodywhich can be categorized into two groups including three individuals facing Section cases and three individuals facing cases concerning public assemblies, setting fire on police vehicles, having in possession explosive (Ping Pong Bomb), and throwing explosive (Ping Pong Bomb). As to the cases that have reached the final verdicts, the number of convicted prisoner remans the same at 10 since July 2023.

Restriction and violation of the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression and harassment by public officials

During August and September 2023, the acts of harassment continued to be perpetrated by public officials and unidentified persons including stalking, harassment or stifling activities and expression of members of the public.

Harassment by public officials

On16 September 2023, while Amnesty Club LLB organized a human rights education class at the Prince of Songkla University in Hat Yai around 1.30pm, four police officials in plainclothes from Kho Hong Police Station have arrived just outside the room and showed their phone and Line App featuring a poster about the activity. The police explained that they were there to check out as instructed by their superior officials. They wanted to know if it was related to non-profit organizations with affiliation to the Patani Malayu National Revolutionary Front or BRN or not. The organizers negotiated with the officials and explained that the activity was organized by the students themselves. During the conversation, the police took photo just outside the room and the registration desk covering faces of two individuals. The organizers thus asked them to delete the photos. The police promised to do so, but did not delete the photos in front of the organizers.

On 26 August 2023, Amnesty International Thailand organized a panel discussion on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly at the Philadelphia Bookshop in Ubonratchathani at 5.00pm. A man wearing a crop haircut appeared at the event just before its commencement. The organizers approached and asked him and he admitted to being a police officer and said he was paid by his friend to record audio of the event and to take photo as well.

Harassment by unidentified persons

On 14 August2023, at 3.50am, two unidentified persons on a motorcycle without license plate and wearing helmets to conceal their faces pulled over at the fences of a house. Then, one of them hurled a large piece of rock into the car garage of the house causing damage to windshield of a car. Until now, there have been no report of the arrest of the perpetrators.