date: 3/1/2024 author: Faozee

Report on the state of public assembly in January 2024


According to the observation and documentation by the Mob Data Thailand at least 27 small-scale public assemblies took place throughout the country, mostly in the province, 18 times, and Bangkok 9 times. They were focused on various issues.

Overall situation of public assembly

January 2024, the beginning of new year, still saw a regular occurrence of public assemblies throughout the country, albeit without large-scale public assemblies. According to the observation and documentation by the Mob Data Thailand at least 27 small-scale public assemblies took place throughout the country, mostly in the province, 18 times, and Bangkok 9 times. They were focused on various issues.


Photo by Lanner

The issue that prompted the most public assemblies was still the demand of the right to bail, 11 times including the three times of Stand Stop Tyranny at Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai marking the 79th – 83rd week by We The People. In addition, We The People organized two special sessions of Stand Stop Tyranny at Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai together with a Performance Art and holding banners by political activists in Chiang Mai to demand an unconditional release of those incarcerated in jail. The activities were also held to show their solidarity with Arnon Nampa since he was supposed to appear in court hearings on 8 and 9 January at the Chiang Mai Provincial Court.


Photo by Lanner

A human rights attorney and human rights activist, Arnon was accused of violating Section 112 for making a speech at the “Party by the Hill, Blowing birthday cake, The General Ducklings” at the lawn in front of the Chiang Mai University Art Center on 23 November 2020. Meanwhile, about four dozen of people came to attend the hearings and to show their support to Arnon. More than 100 plainclothes and uniform police were deployed in and around the Court, while the corridor leading to the courtroom was blocked with iron barricades with around 10-15 police officers and court marshals were stationed in and around the courtroom. Only five persons were allowed to attend the hearings.


Photo by Chanakarn Laosarakham

One of the common demands repeatedly expressed in the first month of 2024 was about the right to bail as part of the attempt to advocate for the People’s Amnesty Bill. On 22 January, members of the People’s Amnesty Network converged in front of the UN Headquarters to demand the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to help push the government to promulgate the People’s Amnesty Act. On that day, more than 10 plainclothes police officers with only two uniform police officers, were there. They even took photo of participants to the event.


Photo by Gun Saengthong

In addition, on 29 January 2024, the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG), the Constitution Advocacy Alliance (CALL). The Freedom of Kasetsart Group, the Thalu Wang group, the Thalu Gaz and the Labour Network for People Rights organized a campaign march at the Ratchaprasong intersection, the Police General Hospital, the Royal Thai Police Headquarters, and the Siam Square to advocate for the People’s Amnesty Bill attended by a dozen of people. When arriving at the Royal Thai Police, they were met by a dozen of uniform police officers with iron barricades to block entrance and exit of the police office. They then moved on to Siam Square. Meanwhile, Pol Col Arkhom Khumpharat, Superintendent of the Pathumwan police station read a notification to call for a disband of public assembly dated 29 January 2024 as follows;

“On 29 January 2024, around 3 pm, you, leader of the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG), has led members of the public to form a public assembly at the BTS Siam Station, Rama I, Kwaeng Pathumwan, Pathumwan District, Bangkok, which is a public area. As it appears the public assembly is unlawful since it has been organized without prior notification being made to the officials in charge of public assembly as required by Section 10. This public assembly is therefore deemed unlawful pursuant to Section 14 of the Public Assembly Act B.E. 2558. To maintain convenience for the public, to facilitate a public assembly, and to preserve public order or moral high ground of the public, by virtue of Section21(1) of the Public Assembly Act B.E. 2558, the participants are thereby asked to disband the public assembly within 30 minutes.”


Photo by Kai Maew Cheese (ไข่แมวชีส)

In addition, a symbolic action was organized on 27 January 2024. Before 5 pm, members of freelance groups led by Noppasin “Sainam” Treelayapewat, Sitthichai “Oil” Prasai, “Yok” Thanalop (last name withheld), and Khathathorn “Ta” Dapom have arrived to play kites at Sanam Luang to demand the right to bail of politically charged persons. They put down a mattress and played the kites they brought along. Each kite’s tail was written with name of each of the 26 political prisoners including Arnon Nampa, Sophon “Get” Surariddhidhamrong, Ekkachai Hongkangwan, Mongkol Tirakote, Netiporn Sanehsangkhom, etc. Both uniform and plainclothes police officers were deployed around Sanam Luang and the activity ended at 7.30 pm.

Another issue prompting public assemblies was welfare and livelihood. At least eight public assemblies were held on the issue, most of which were public assemblies led by raiders in various provinces including Bangkok, Krabi, Rayong, Samut Songkhram, and Sraburi. Apart from holding a strike, they have submitted letters of petition to protest against the policy to reduce commission rate by a company. In addition, a public assembly was held by employees in a car factory in Bangpoo Industrial Estate, Samut Prakanprompted by breach of an agreement. They vowed to stop doing overtime work unless they received a clarification. Lastly, a public assembly was held by villagers of Ban Wang Sai Poon, Phichit and adjacent Tombons including Wang Sai Poon, Nong Pla Lai, Nong Phra, and Nong Plong. They demanded compensation from the agricultural cooperatives as the paddy rice has been sold out, but no farmers have received payment. Most of the farmers grew Hom Mali rice variety. And in November 2023, during the harvest time, as the farmers started to harvest their paddies and sold them to the Wang Sai Poon agricultural cooperatives and they were expected to receive the first chunk of money on 7 December 2023. Still, the cooperatives said it had not enough money to pay the farmers. 101 farmers were affected with the total loss of 23 million Baht.

Two meetings have been called by the cooperatives to discuss the timing of the compensation. Still, the Wang Sai Poon agricultural cooperatives still cannot manage to pay back the debt. More meeting was held for negotiation on 23 January 2024, the third round of talk, to explore the solutions between the farmers and the Wang Sai Poon agricultural cooperatives. This time, the mediation was chaired by public prosecutor for rights protection, Prasert Chaison and participated by the Provincial Cooperatives, Deputy Superintendent of Wang Sai Poon police station, Chair of the Wang Sai Poon Cooperative, Wang Sai Poon District Chief Officer, and the Provincial Revenue Office and the Pro Bono Attorney Club of Phichit. An agreement was reached for the debt to be initially paid to 30 farmers. Another payment shall be made in March 2024. The Wang Sai Poon agricultural cooperatives and owners of rice mills who bought paddies from the farmers will also be brought to justice. Initially, some farmers have reported the case with the Wang Sai Poon police station already.

The other issue that drew out less public assemblies was the environment and housing, of which seven public assemblies were conducted including;

1. The gathering of villagers of Ban Pak Nam Tha Khoei. Surat Thani, who are affected by the operations to reclaim mangrove forest area. They were gathered at the Surat Thani Damrongtham Center on 10 January 2024 to demand to know progress concerning the solutions led by the Surat Thani provincial authorities. It was a follow-up after the Committee to Address Problems of the Assembly of the Poor agreed to set up a subcommittee to address the problem, still, the villagers have been left in the dark as to the progress of such solutions.

2. The gathering of the Farmers for a New Society Group, composed of around 100 members at the Krabi Provincial Hall on 17 January2024 led by Yokhin Khamwong, Chair, who led his members to march to the Krabi Provincial Hall to demand the Krabi Governor, forestry officials, Krabi Agricultural Land Reform Office, the Ao Luk Cooperative Estate, and security agencies to address their problems. The villagers claimed that at the behest of influential people, some villagers have occupied the land whose leases had expired in the Yan Yao-Khao Wong Reserved Forest in Moo 9 and Moo 10, Tambon Plai Phraya, Plai Phraya District. In the same area, members of the Farmers for a New Society Group had already built their temporary community to demand their right to land according to the government policies to redistribute such land for landless farmers. The Krabi Governor has asked the Chief of Security Affairs Group Phumet Kraithong, and Territorial Defense Volunteers to prepare some accommodation for the protesters in front of the old Krabi Provincial Hall and provided them with drinking water. Yokhin Khamwong, Chair of the Group and other representatives, altogether 20, have gone to submit their letter of petition which was received by Sompong Ratana, Director of Krabi Damrongtham Center, who participated in a discussion to explain until the participants were satisfied and returned to their home.

3. Members of the Network of community-based organizations for the preservation of Khao Banthat were gathered at the Nakhon Si Thammarat Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation on 18 January 2024 to ask to know progress regarding the solving of their problems, following the appointment of the subcommittee to cut down rubber trees for reforestation in Nakhon Sri Thammarat. The meeting was attended by representatives from the Nakhon Sri Thammarat Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, as the subcommittee’s secretary and it could be concluded that the Secretariat would issue a letter to propose a date for meeting with the Deputy Governor, in his capacity as Chair of the subcommittee to cut down rubber trees for reforestation in Nakhon Sri Thammarat within early February. The Secretariat will hold another meeting to fix the meeting agenda on 24 January 2024. After such consultation, the members have left.

4. At least 60 villagers from Nong Ma Chab, Tambon Mae Faek, San Sai District, were gathered on 18 January 2024 and marched to submit a letter of petition at the Chiang Mai Damrongtham Center and the Chiang Mai Provincial Industrial Office to oppose the planned construction of a ready-mix concrete factory. The villagers have uncovered irregularities in the construction process and no hearings have been conducted to allow the community members to make their decision. They fear the impacts on water supply and the spread of particulate matters from the concrete factory. Later, Siriphon Rueruang, Director of Subdivision, Chiang Mai Damrongtham Center, has accepted the complaint and shared with concerned authorities as well as submitted it to the Chiang Mai Governor to further disseminate to the district and local levels.

5. During 22-23 January 2024, around 200 villagers who are members of the Phato Conservation Network and those from Hoy Pling, Tambon Ratchakrud, Ranong and Lang Suan District, Chumphon, have together gone to meet the Prime Minister at the Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University’s Ranong Provincial Education Center. With headbands, placards and flags in their hands printed with the slogans “No Land bridge” and “Land bridge will take people lives” and several other phrases, they were there to protest against the Land Bridge project, part of which will include a road made through Phato District. It shall affect residential and agricultural areas, particularly durian plantation and other fruit orchards which earn already stable income for the villagers. They want the government to review the project. According to Ms. Urai, the Network has the following demands (1) the government should place an importance on project feasibility study since until now, previous studies are not on part with academic standards and failed to ensure public participation, (2) the government should conduct a holistic study of the project covering the environmental, social and health impacts, since until now, studies have been conducted separately under the umbrella of the Land Bridge project, (3) the Prime Minister should explore other development initiatives for Ranong, Chumphon and the South, should the Land Bridge project fail to happen, and (4) the Prime Minister should set up a taskforce including politicians, local authorities, academics, civil society and local people to explore the solutions and to resolve any conflict.

Later, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has addressed the protesters that the government shall take into account all voices heard from the people. “I promise to ensure (the people’s recommendations) be incorporated into the feasibility study process and all concerned parties genuinely understand the purposes of the Land Bridge project. There shall be consultations about the economic stimulation in the South as a result of the Land Bridge. I am confident that the government will provide incessant support through the promotion of tourism, the airport construction, etc. We will listen to all voices of the people.”

6. On 28 January 2024 at the Tha Phae Gate, Chiang Mai, a performance art was organized under the theme “Breathe Dusts In The Air”, organized by KNACK, a group to promote a fair and equal social democracy, and the Chiang Mai Breath Council. It aims to raise the awareness about the “uninvited guests” and to explore ways to “invite” clean air to prevail in the city of Chiang Mai once again and forever. An art exhibition and a public discussion were also organized on the issues concerning PM2.5.

7. Public assemblies were also organized by the Students and the People's Network for Thailand Reform (KPT) and the People’s Center for the Protection of Monarchy (SPPS) (SPPS) during 12-14 January 2024 at the Chamai Maruchate Bridge, just before the Government House. It was attended by at least 30 people led by Pichit Chaimongkhol and Nasser Yeema, the group’s leaders. Dr. Tul Sittisomwong, leader of the Multi-colored Group, also read a statement to the government expressing their opposition to the decision to all the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to receive treatment outside the prison for over 120 days. Until now, no one could give a clear answer to the public as to Thaksin’s medical condition and why it warranted such prolonged treatment. Later, Pol Gen Surachet Hakpal, Deputy Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police in charge of national security, has gone to the site and discussed with the protesters. In a press interview, he revealed that “The public assemblies by the KPT has been made with prior permission sought properly.” He said he told the protest leaders to refrain from obstructing the traffic and predicted that more participants would arrive during this Saturday and Sunday. They would be permitted to occupy only the pavement, not to spill out and obstruct traffic.

In addition to the aforementioned public assemblies, there were at least three other public assemblies on various issues including;


Photo by PSC Thailand

1. The public assembly by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign-Thailand (PSCT) and the Socialist Workers Thailand (SWT) on 13 January 2024 at the Embassy of the United States in Thailand to demand the US stop sending to Isarael military support and an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip to pave the way for humanitarian assistance. Over a hundred of people have participated in the assembly while at least 20 uniform police officers were deployed with barricades in front of the Embassy.

2. A public assembly to submit a letter to follow up on the draft law to protect sex work by the Empower Foundation on 18 January 2024 and to ask political parties to monitor the draft law to protect sex work which is being frozen in the procedure under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.

3. 22 January 2024, the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases Region 5 in Chiang Mai, had a hearing on a case against a military conscript instructor who has been accused of being complicit in committing a cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under Section 6 of the Act on Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance B.E. 2565. The case involved the death of Private Kittithon Wiangbanphot, after starting his training as a military conscript, the batch of 1 /66 at the Fort Mengrai Maharaj on 4 August 2023. About 15 people were gathered in front of the sign of the Court while holding their placards bearing statements such as “That’s why we have to have military?", "Stop enforced disappearance, stop torture" to demand justice and to show their solidarity to Private Kittithon’s family.

Prosecutions against political activists

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), January saw a slight increase of cases against political expression, at least altogether four cases including one fresh case of Section 112. Throughout the month, verdicts were successively read in cases starting from the events during 2020-2022. In just one month, verdicts on Section 112 cases were read in 11 cases including the verdict by the Court of Appeal to impose the unprecedented imprisonment of 50 years against Busbas for his posts in his personal Facebook. Verdicts were read incases concerning public assemblies in at least eight cases including cases related to the violation of the Emergency Decree which were dismissed by the court and cases that drew out guilty verdicts. According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), since the Free Youth led public assemblies on 18 July 2020 until 31 January 2024, at least 1,947 individuals have been charged for participating in public assemblies or expressing their political opinions in 1,268 cases. Of this, 268 children under 18 year have been charged in 217 cases.

Altogether, there have been at least 3,962 legal actions against the individuals although some of them are charged for multiple offences

Prosecution statistics in key offences;

1. “Lese majeste” offence pursuant to the Penal Code’s Section112, at least 263 suspects in 288 cases

2. Sedition pursuant to the Penal Code’s Section116, at least 147 suspects in 45 cases

3. An offence against the Emergency Decree, at least 1,469 suspects in 664 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 179 suspects in 91 cases

5. An offence against the Computer Crimes Act, at least 197 suspects in 215 cases

6. A contempt of court, at least 43 suspects in 25 cases, and insult of the court, at least 34 suspects in 10 cases

Of 1,268 cases, 494 have reached their final verdicts. There remain more than 774 cases being pursued at different stages of the judicial procedure.

In addition, in January, new cases on “sedition” against Section 116 were reported including cases reported against nine members of the public and civil society members in southern border provinces. The Commander of the Fourth Army Region has authorized an officer to report the case against them at the Sai Buri police station following their Melayu Raya activity at the Wasukri Beach on 4 May 2022. The charge was related to their holding BRN flags and singing in Melayu dialect deemed to be a song about the restoration of independence by the Royal Thai Army. The nine people have been summoned to answer to the charges on 9 January 2024 and we will keep monitoring their defense.