date: 1/29/2024 author: Faozee Lateh

An Overview Of Public Assemblies And Harassment Following The Gatherings October And November 2023


In October, there were at least nine public assemblies nationwide, and in November, there were at least seven public assemblies nationwide.

Overview of Public Assemblies and Harassment in October and November 2023


According to observations and documentation by Amnesty International Thailand and iLaw via Mob Data Thailand, October saw at least nine public assemblies nationwide, most of which were small-scale (less than 100 participants) and medium-scale (at least 100 participants). They can be categorized as related to the demand for civil and political rights, occurring three times, including the demand for the right to bail for those prosecuted for exercising their freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.


This includes the sit-in protest in front of the Ratchada Criminal Court by Busbas, a political activist, during 1 – 15 October 2023; a public assembly by Thaluwang members who, while clad in prisoner uniforms, walked by foot from Thammasat University’s Tha Phra Chan Campus to the Supreme Court on 6 October 2023; and the Stand Stop Tyranny led by We, The People for the 67th week, standing to demand the right to bail at Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai. Regarding economic, social, and cultural rights, at least four public assemblies were organized, including those conducted by the Four Regions Slum Network (FRSN) on the topic "Walk for Home" to mark World Habitat Day by marching to demand the right to housing from the state at the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), the Ministry of Transportation, and the Government House. Additionally, the United Nations, as an international organization.


Photo by Chanakarn

Hosted public assemblies by P-Move, who held a sit-in protest at the Government House to demand policy solutions concerning economic, social, and cultural rights and to raise concerns about the government's policy to promote carbon credit and to demand decentralization during October 3-17. P-Move has since called off its public assemblies after the government accepted to consider their demands for policy solutions and set up seven subcommittees to address the concerned issues, including systematic land solutions, impact from state development projects, state welfare, the right to housing, etc.


Photo by Chanakarn

The Assembly of the Poor held a sit-in protest in front of the Government House since October 8 for one month, after which the government agreed to set up subcommittees to solve their problems. In addition, concerning labor issues, labor unions held a demonstration to demand that the government ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions No. 87 on Freedom of Association and the Right to Organize, and No. 98 on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining. Two actions were taken to show solidarity with the violation of rights abroad, including one led by Bright Future - the Myanmar workers in Thailand, who demonstrated in front of the United Nations office to condemn Min Aung Hlaing. Another protest was held against Israel's war on the Palestinians in front of the Embassy of Israel. 


In November, there were at least seven public assemblies nationwide, including at least five in Bangkok, at least once in Chiang Mai, and at least once in Bueng Kan. They can be categorized as related to the demand for civil and political rights, which included the submission of a letter of petition urging the government to legislate the amnesty law for political prisoners and to restore justice by the 24th of June for Democracy and the Campaign Committee to Amend Article 112 (CCAA 112). 


Photo by Chanakarn

On labor issues, a campaign for fair wages was launched by Lalamove delivery riders. Regarding women and children's issues, there was a demand for the state to acknowledge and address the problems of women workers and children by the Women Workers for Justice Group (WJG) and its alliances. 

Concerning economic, social, and cultural rights and the environment, a demand was made for the cancellation of a public hearing on the Draft Kud-Thing Lake Wildlife Sanctuary Protection Plan 2023-2032 by residents in three Tambons in Muang District of Bueng Kan, and the letter was handed to the Governor. The People's Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) put pressure on the Srettha government, which was likely not to keep their word to address the problems. They held a sit-in protest and demonstration to demand the government address problems faced by villagers affected by state development projects. They have since called off the public assemblies on 8 September 2023, after reaching an agreement with Captain Thammanat Prompao, Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, following 31 days of public assemblies. 

Prosecutions Against Members of The Public

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), since the Free Youth-led public assemblies on 18 July 18 2020, until 30 November 2023, at least 1,935 individuals have been charged for participating in public assemblies or expressing their political opinions in 1,262 cases. In October, two more individuals were charged in 48 cases, and in November, five more individuals were charged in nine cases. Three persons are held liable for the violation of the Penal Code’s Section 112 in four cases, including the case against “James Nutthakan,” the 37-year-old motorcycle taxi driver in Thonburi who was arrested and charged by the Muang Phatthalung Police Station in a case reported against him by core members of the People Protecting the Monarchy Group in response to his three social media posts. As the Provincial Court of Phatthalung denied him bail, he has since been held in custody in the Central Prison of Phatthalung until now. 

Furthermore, a case has been reported against “Bung Earn,” a freelance artist from Khon Kaen. He has responded to the charge as his second case at the Chana Songkhram Police Station. It was also the second case reported against him by Arnon Klinkaew, a core member of the People's Center for the Protection of Monarchy, in response to his posting his own photo while pointing his shoe toward His Majesty’s portrait. Another case was reported against “Tham” from Chai Nat, who has also answered to the charges at the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) in response to his comments on the "KTUK – Khon Thai UK" Facebook page on 1 March 2021. In all these three cases, the complainants are individuals who are active members of the monarchy protection movement. 

Prosecution statistics in key offences;   

1. Section 112 of the Penal code (lèse-majesté) , at least 262 people charged in 285 cases  

2. Section 116 of the Penal Code (sedition), at least 135 people charged in 43 cases  

3. The Emergency Decree, at least 1,469 people charged in 663 cases (since May 2020 when such offence has been invoked against people engaged in political activities) 

4. Public Assembly Act, at least 179 people charged in 91 cases  

5. Computer Crimes Act, at least 195 people charged in 213 cases  

6. Contempt of court, at least 42 people charged in 24 cases  

7. Insulting the court, at least 34 people charged in 10 cases 

Of 1,262 cases, 463 cases reached their final verdicts and other 800 cases remain in trial.  

In October, verdicts on cases stemming from the exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly were delivered at both the Trial and Appeal Court levels. During the two years from November 2021 until October 2023, verdicts have been delivered by the Lower Courts in more than 100 Section 112 cases, of which 79 were guilty verdicts and 21 acquittals. The person sentenced to the longest prison term was Busbas, who was found guilty of an offence against the Penal Code’s Section 112 and against the Computer Crimes Act’s Section 14 (3) for disseminating and sharing information in breach of national security in 14 counts. He was sentenced to three years per count, and given the evidence he provided, which was useful for the trial, it was reduced to two years per count. Altogether, he was slated to serve 28 years in jail. In response to the situation, rights organizations, including the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the International Federation for Human Rights, the Union for Civil Liberties (UCL), and the Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), have issued a statement urging the government to amend the Penal Code’s Section 112 to ensure its compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

In cases concerning the Emergency Decree that restricted public assemblies during 2020-2022, in October, nine verdicts were delivered, including three acquittals. In one case, a participant in a public assembly in Din Daeng was remanded in custody and denied bail for 48 days, and he has since been acquitted from all charges. In six other cases, the Courts found the defendants guilty and only imposed on them a fine. In a case that breached public assembly restrictions, the “Anti-coup” at Lat Prao Intersection on 27 November 2020 with 16 defendants, only Arnon Nampa, Jatupat ‘Pai’, and Thanayuth “Book” were sentenced to a prison term without suspension. In the Section 112 case against Benja Apan from her speech during the CarMobYai To Oust Tyranny on 10 August 2020, she was convicted and sentenced to a suspended jail term.

The public prosecutors decided not to prosecute four cases concerning the violation of the Emergency Decree restricting political public assemblies, all of which took place in the Northeast, including three cases related to CarMobNakhonPhanom and one case related to CarMobKhonKaen. 

November marked the third anniversary of the resumption of the use of the Penal Code’s Section 112, and the Lower Courts delivered verdicts in four cases, including the two not-guilty-plea cases, of which one was dismissed. It was the case against Nutchanon Pairoj, who was accused of publishing “Prakot Kan Sathan Fah,” a transcription of the speech on the ten recommendations for monarchy reform. In another case, the court convicted and sentenced “Chotchuanng” to three years in jail for allegedly setting fire to His Majesty’s portrait in Bang Kruay District, although he has been allowed to post bail. In two other cases, as the defendants pleaded guilty, they were sentenced to three years, one without suspension and one with a suspended jail term. 

Additionally, verdicts were delivered in two cases at the appeal level, including the case against a minor Thanakorn ‘Petch’ for making a speech in a public assembly in Wong Wian Yai. The Appeal Court upheld the previous verdict for the violation of the Penal Code’s Section 112, although the Court altered the sentencing. Previously, Petch was ordered to attend a Juvenile Vocational Training Center for one year and six months. The new sentence suspends the sentence for two years, during which the defendant shall be placed under probation. In the case against Nakhon, the Appeal Court upheld the previous verdict. 

As a result of such prosecutions, as of 30 November 2023, at least 14 more individuals have been incarcerated for exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in the Section 112 cases. In cases pending trial where the Courts have previously denied bail, there has been no alteration of the order. Additionally, there are six existing prisoners whose cases have reached the final verdicts. 

The Restriction and Violation of Rights and Harassment By Authorities Concerning The Exercise of Freedom of Expression and Assembly

In October and November 2023, harassment by authorities and by unidentified person continued unabated in an attempt to surveil, harass or stifle the exercise of freedom of expression by the people.   

Harassment by authorities 

Harassment during the visits of VIPs

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), before a visit by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin during 6-7 October 2023 to the area affected by floods in Ubonratchathani and adjacent provinces, the police and unaffiliated persons committed surveillance and harassment by visiting the activists at home, driving to follow them, and at least five activists were subjected to such harassment.   

In addition, before the visit to Chiang Mai on 20 October 2023 by Their Majesties the King and the Queen, it was reported that a freelance writer and translator, Pipob Udomittipong, who also participated in the Stand Stop Tyranny activity, was visited by police officials from San Kamphaeng at his home. They inquired about any activity during the royal visit and told him to refrain from taking any action. They also asked for permission to take Pipob’s photos and of his house. Later in October, it was reported that an activist in Burirum was followed by plainclothes police before the visit of Princess Chulabhorn. On the following day, plainclothes officials visited him at home and asked to take photos there. It was also reported that an activist in Bangkok was subjected to police surveillance just before the day to commemorate the death of King Rama IX and the visit by King Rama X. 

Monitoring of political activities in universities

While holding a seminar on “The Fall of Dictatorship, the Transition to Democracy, and the Reinforcement of Democracy” at Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus in Pathumthani Province in early September, the Thammasat Democratic Study Group (TUDS) faced difficulties and obstacles. The Special Branch police approached the university’s officials and discussed with them until the university agreed not to allow them to use the meeting room. As a result, the organizers had to readjust their plan. In addition, more than seven plainclothes police came to monitor the day the seminar was held as well.

Monitoring public assemblies concerning the economic, social and cultural rights

In October, the People's Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) and the Assembly of the Poor (AoP) held a sit-in protest to demand policy solutions concerning their right to housing and natural resources. During their demonstrations, the police kept monitoring and harassing them, following the participants. For example, they went to the office of Baramee Chairat, AoP’s advisor, while he was at the protesting site. One police official was spotted at the protesting venue while trying to intimidate the participants by taking photos of a dozen of them while they were bathing, including women participants. This happened without any attempt to notify them or seek prior permission from them. After being talked to by the protest guards, the official agreed to delete the photos. 

Monitoring public assemblies concerning civil and political rights

While civil society organizations (CSOs) were holding a commemoration of the 6 October event at Sirindhararat Building in Thammasat University’s Lampang Campus, at least four police officials from Hang Chat Police Station and at least four plainclothes police officials inquired about the activity and the list of speakers. They informed the organizers that since people from outside came in, they had to be there to monitor the situation. They even tried to take photos, although they were prohibited by the students. Meanwhile, the plainclothes officials observed around the event. 

On 7 October 2023, Amnesty International Thailand and the Faculty of Law, Thammasat University, jointly held the activity "Walk with Amnesty: The 47th anniversary, Let’s explore the history of 6 October 1976" and organized a public discussion on ‘6 October 1976: Reflecting on the unerasable memories’ targeting members and the public. It was a chance to explore memories and accounts from former prisoners of conscience, the injured, and the survivors from the event, and to meet with members of the Coordinating Group for Religion in Society (CGRS). During that time, plainclothes officials monitored the event and took photos during the Walk with Amnesty activity. 

In late October to early November, Amnesty International Thailand organized a mobile Human Rights Education on Monday, 30 October 2023, at the lawn on the first floor of Chiang Rai Rajabhat University. According to AIT’s staff, officials from security and police agencies, and local reporters inquired about the activity. According to the reporters, their interest stemmed from reports that Amnesty was about to mobilize the people. 

Harassment by unidentified persons  

While Busbas was having a sit-in protest to demand the right to bail in front of the Ratchada Criminal Court, it was reported by Prachatai and Mob Data Thailand that on October 15, around 17:00, in front of the Ratchada Criminal Court, Busbas climbed up to the sign of the Court of Justice and the Criminal Court and livestreamed himself via his Facebook page. He explained the reason he had to get up there since his personal belongings had been stolen. He only learned later that they had been taken away by the Municipal officials since he was reported to the police as being a homeless person.


Later, Arnon Klinkaew, Chair of the People's Center for the Protection of Monarchy, and three young men with iron sticks in their hands hurled their water bottles against Busbas and hurled abuse and insults against him. Some participants in Busbas’s activity were punched in their faces by the pro-monarchy group. After the situation calmed down around 18:30, the PCPM went to the Phahonyothin Police Station to ask the police to prepare a daily memo about this incident. They claimed they had to come out to chase Busbas away since they spotted this incident in the afternoon and found the police were unable to bring down Busbas from the Criminal Court’s sign. They had to do this themselves.