date: 6/20/2024 author: Faozee

Report on the state of public assembly in May 2024

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May 2024 still saw a series of small-scale public assemblies. According to the observation and documentation by the Mob Data Thailand, in May 2024, at least 32 small-scale public assemblies were organized. For sit-in public assemblies that lasted more than one day, altogether they happened in the span of 60 times. 16 public assemblies took place in Bangkok while 16 in the province.

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Overview of public assembly

May 2024 still saw a series of small-scale public assemblies. According to the observation and documentation by the Mob Data Thailand, in May 2024, at least 32 small-scale public assemblies were organized. For sit-in public assemblies that lasted more than one day, altogether they happened in the span of 60 times. 16 public assemblies took place in Bangkok while 16 in the province.

Amidst the escalation of public assemblies for the whole month, a number of hearings have been taking place as a result of which at least 42 individuals are still being incarcerated for expressing their political views or other political charges. At least 24 have been denied bail, while one minor has been remanded at a juvenile detention center pursuant to a special measure in lieu of sentencing by the Court in a case concerning Section 112. In addition, at least 17 are being incarcerated in prisons since their cases have reached the final verdicts.

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Netiporn "Bung" Sanehsangkhom, a political activist, had been remanded in custody under the charge of the Department of Corrections following her being sentenced to one month in jail for court contempt and her previous indictment in an offence against Section 112 for conducting a poll about the problem from royal motorcade in which case her bail bond was revoked since 26 January 2024. Since 27 January 2024, Bung had started her dry fasting until April for at least 65 days in her protest with two demands including the reform of the judiciary and the release of all politically charged individuals. On the morning of 14 May 2024, she was found unconscious while under the Department of Corrections’ custody at 6.15am. Without vital signs, the Department of Corrections Hospital decided to transfer her to receive treatment at the Thammsat University Hospital. She was pronounced dead at 11.22 am at the age of 28 years old. As to her death, her family and her legal representatives were unsettled by her death and the process to assist and rescue her by the Department of Corrections Hospital and continue to demand an inquiry into the matter. The Department of Corrections issued a statement about the passing of Netiporn "Bung" Sanehsangkhom in which it announced that the Minister of Justice has ordered the establishment of an inquiry committee to look into the case.

Detail of the public assemblies

The passing of Netiporn "Bung" Sanehsangkhom, a political activist, while under custody of the Department of Corrections, has prompted a series of public assemblies or gatherings to exercise freedom of expression in various forms, mostly to mourn her passing and on other issues including;

The gatherings or public assemblies to mourn the passing of Netiporn "Bung" Sanehsangkhom

On 14 May 2024, following the pronouncement of “Bung” Netiporn’s death by the Thammsat University Hospital, it has prompted the organization of activities to mourn her passing in at least 10 places.

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In Bangkok, two activities were organized including the 1.12-hour standing activity and a candle vigil in remembrance of ”Bung” Netiporn at the entrance of South Bangkok Criminal Court at around 5pm. In terms of security, the officers of the South Bangkok Criminal Court shut down all the gates and screened people who wanted to get inside and outside of the Court. Meanwhile, Pol Col Ratthanon Ekthitikulphat, Superintendent of the Yannawa Police Station, sent in police forces, in plainclothes and uniform, to monitor and observe movement of the participants. At one point, the Superintendent of the Yannawa Police Station has approached the organizers and informed them about the legal bound concerning public assemblies. In the second activity which was a candle vigil held in front of the Ratchada Criminal Court around 5pm, it was led by Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen, a lawyer from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR). At least 70 participants were lighting and placing candles with Bung’s name with speeches being made. They were surrounded by police from the Phahonyothin Police Station who helped to facilitate the traffic.

Aside from Bangkok, similar activities were held on the same day in at least 8 places including in Chiang Mai, at Tha Phae Gate with at least 50 participants. After distributing white and black candles to the participants, they started to make a circle and light the candles placing them to form the letters that spell Bung’s name. Speeches were made in remembrance of hers with poems recited as well. Other activities were was also held in Lampang at the Clock Tower Intersection by the White Dove for the People, in Chiang Rai at the King Mangrai Monument, in Khon Kaen at the Democracy Monument, in Pathumthani at the Thammsat University Hospital, in Phrae at the Provincial Hall, and in Nakhon Ratchasima at the Thao Suranari (Ya Mo) Monument.

More activities were held on the same issue on 27 May 2024, at 1pm, at the Huay Kwang Police Station, a group of activists have gone for further inquiry by the police in the case they were accused of organizing the activity “Bring pants and masks to unmask the SEA Write Award Poet, A national scum, to demand the revocation of the National Artist status of Naowarat Pongpaiboon, in front of the Ministry of Culture. The activists facing charges in this case have gone to the police with a portrait of “Bung” Netiporn. And according to the inquiry official of the Huay Kwang Police Station, “Bung” Netiporn would no longer be indicted since she had since deceased. In this case, altogether 15 activists including “Bung” Netiporn have been charged.

The demand of the right to bail has sparked a slew of public assemblies in various places following the death of “Bung” Netiporn including the Stand Stop Tyranny in Chiang Mai. Altogether, there were at least six public assemblies held to demand the right to bail.

Public assemblies to demand the right to bail

Demand the right to bail has been a mainstay of public assemblies held every month, particularly following the death of “Bung” Netiporn. This month saw at least six public assemblies on the issue including;

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A public assembly by freelance activists called “Where is Soi Khao San?” on 12 May 2024 at the island on the roundabout of Ram Buttri Rd. or the island at Sip Sam Hang Rd. (behind Banglamphu close to Khao San Rd.), Phra Nakhon, Bangkok. The Thalu Gaz group led by Chirapas “Gap” Koram and Khathathon “Ta” Dapom and 20 other people organized the Stand Stop Imprisonment for 112 minutes at the venues. According to the organizers, the activity was held to demand the right to bail of political prisoners. Khathathon and two friends in PPE suits were standing with their arms stretching to both sides at the roundabout to draw attention from the passerby. On their PPE suits, phrases were spray-painted including “Free Our Friends”, “Restore Right to Bail”, and “Blood for Blood”. Other participants held large banners with statements including “Repeal Section 112 Stop Pre-Tail Detention For Political Prisoners” while holding in their hands sunflowers and photos of political prisoners.

The Stand Stop Tyranny was conducted for the 88th and 89th weeks on 18 and 25 May 2024, respectively, at Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai by We, The People. The activity was paused since March due to air pollution and it was resumed on 18 May 2024 following the death of ”Bung” Netiporn as they stood for one house and 12 minutes to demand the right to bail, which is a fundamental right of a citizen and to demand the release of all political prisoners and the repeal of Section 112 as well as to mourn her passing of “Bung” Netiporn.

A public assembly was held by activists of the Thalu Wang group on 21 May 2024 at 11.20am with Khathathon holding a sign demanding the reform of the judiciary and photo of Netiporn Sanehsangkhom, aka Bung Thalu Wang, an activist who died in custody while being incarcerated in prison for an offence against Section 112. The activity was held at Gate 3 of the Government House, and they then walked toward Gate 1 of the Government House where no entry was allowed since it was the entrance exclusively for the Ministers’ and Prime Minister’s vehicles. According to reports, the police offering security at the Government House rushed to apply locks to the Gate of the Thai Khu Fah Building. Meanwhile at Gate 1, the crowd control police armed with shields formed a row to prevent the entrance of activists toward inside the Government House. The police then sealed off Gate 1 to prevent the activists from exiting. The police later opened the gate to deescalate the situation. Then, the Thalu Wang’s activists walked back to the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission or OPSDC to hold a press conference in conjunction with the Thalu Fah while the police continued to reinforced their defense in front of the Government House. The Thalu Fah activists were holding an activity on the same day to demand to know outcome of the government’s inquiry into Bung’s death to ensure a prompt and transparent investigation and to ensure those incarcerated pending trials to have the right to bail, and to demand the procrastination of prosecution and arrest of people for political changes as well as to promptly enact the People’s Amnesty Act.

On the same issue, the 24 June Group organized an activity “Amnesty for people who are alive and justice for the deceased” with people marching from a gas station by the Ministry of Justice to hand over a letter to the Minister of Justice.

Labour and state welfare

May saw at least seven public assemblies organized on labour and state welfare issues and since 1 May marked the InterInternational Workers' Day, public assemblies were also held on the day including five public assemblies as follows;

A public assembly by the Congress of 18 Employees' Organizations to demand the government ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize and no. 98 on Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining as they marched from Jor Por Ror Intersection on Ratchadamnoen Nok Rd. to Lan Khon Mueang.

A network of workers organized by the Move Forward Party participated in a march led by the Congress of Employees' Organization with two key demands to be submitted to the government to promptly promulgate the Labour Union Act proposed by the Move Forward Party and to extend maternity leave to 180 days.

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In addition at Phitsanulok Rd., a network of workers from Rangsit and adjacent areas, the migrant workers’ group 'Bright Future', and the Labour Network for People Rights have gathered and then marched toward the Government House. Around 9.45am. as they march hit the Chamai Maruchate Bridge, they were blocked by rows of police officers in khaki uniforms. Thanaporn Wichan from the Labour Network for People Rights stated that initially the labour movement doubled down on their previous demands including the raise of minimum wage, the expansion of maternity leave to 180 days and the ratification of the ILO Conventions no. 87 and 98, and other issues.

Activities were organized in the province as well including the one by the Norther Labour Network which organized a march and art and music event to pitch the demands of workers. In Songkhla, the State Enterprises Workers' Relations Confederation organized a march of workers, Thai and migrant, including Myanmar workers, from the Hat Yai railway station to Saneha Nusorn Rd. in front of Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel to read their statement for the demands of both Thai and migrant workers to urge the government to urgently address their problems including the raise of minimum wage to 712 baht nationwide as the raise has been done unevenly in only eight provinces. They also demanded the raise of salary and restructuring of payroll account for state enterprise workers.

Aside from labour issues, other issues that prompted public assemblies included the demand of state welfare by the People's Movement for Just Society (P-Move) on 15 May 2024 in front of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to ask to know progress and to put pressure following the decisions by the Committee to resolve P-Move’s problems on 30 April 2024 and its approval of the decisions by the Subcommittee to mobile state welfare on 21 February 2024. A decision was then made for agencies affiliated to the concerned Ministries to raise the matters to the meetings of the cabinet before the end of the 2025 fiscal year.

And on 17 May 2024, people were gathered to submit a letter of petition to Varawut Silpa-archa, Chartthaipattana Party MP and Minister of Social Development and Human Security, to ensure the immediate launch of the 1,000-baht-allowances for older persons to enhance quality of life of the people.

Public assemblies to mark anniversaries

As 19 May marked an anniversary of the massacre of the Red Shirt in 2010, activities were held in remembrance of the losses in two provinces including in Bangkok at the Ratchaprasong intersection, Pathumwan where a stage was set up on the Ratchadamri Rd. in front of the Central World Shopping Mall in the afternoon with a large vinyl banner hung from the flyover depicting people who died during the incidence and Netiporn "Bung" Sanehsangkhom. A name list of the deceased was read out while their relatives, former United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) leaders, and academics including Thida Thavornseth, Dr. Weng Tojirakarn, former UDD leaders, and Prof. Dr. Anusorn Unno from the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University, offered alms to Buddhist monks in a ceremony

An activity was organized in Chiang Mai under the theme ‘14 years, the cruel May, 5,153 days, we shall not forget’ at Tha Phae Gate, Chiang Mai to commemorate the suppression of public assemblies led by the UDD at the Ratchaprasong intersection in 2010. Pictures of the deceased were put on display with banners alluding to the perpetrators. There was also a Performance Art to shoulder coffins containing bodies of the slain Red Shirt around Tha Phae in order to condemn the heinous acts and to demand to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Since this month also marked the tenth anniversary of the military coup led by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the Thalu Fah and Commoners band together with civil society sector organized a discussion about various events that happened in the past ten years after the military coup. The event was organized at the 14 October Memorial in Bangkok.

Eventually, the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group (KBRK) in six villages in Loei Province organized a merit making ceremony at the Phu Thab Fah, Phu Sam Pa Bon and Phulek for the 15th time to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 15th Black May when gold ore was illegally removed while announcing their five-fold missions to restore the land that once was used for mining.

Public assemblies on natural resources and the environment

At least one public assembly was held on the issues of natural resources and the environment including the public assembly led by the Khao Kala Network of Community and People on 17 May 2024. They have formed themselves as a group to posse the second public hearing and public consultation on the EIA of limestone mining industrial project to serve construction sector. The event was held at the Village Townhall in Moo 10, Tambon Khao Kala, Phayuha Khiri District, Nakhon Sawan. It was carried out by the Tathata Environment Co., Ltd. (environmental advisory) with the concessionary license application no. 3/2565 and the ore dressing area no. 32335 of the 347 Developer Co. Ltd.

Public assemblies on other issues

On 19 May 2024 to mark the anniversary of Nakba Day, people in Bangkok marched to the three embassies including UK, Germany and USA with key demand for these countries to stop sending arms to Israel since they have been used to commit genocide against Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip. ‘Nakba’ or ‘Nakbha’ in Arab means ‘the month of catastrophe’ since 1948 when the territorial dispute between Israel and Palestine began causing the displacement of around 720,000-750,000 Palestinian people and it was the beginning of the protracted conflict until present.

On 4 May 2024 in Chiang Mai, a gathering was held to demand the US to stop supporting Israel’s war against Palestine at the US Consulate, organized by the Socialist Labour Organization to condemn the Zionist regime of Israel which is committing a genocide against Palestinian people.

Lastly, the sit-in protest by the Network of Students and People for the Reform of Thailand (KPT) and the People's Center for the Protection of Monarchy (SPPS) at the Chamai Maruchate Bridge by the Government House since 2 February 2024. Previously, they have notified Pol Col Wanchai Wongwanichsanan, Superintendent of the Dusit Police Station of their intent to organize a public assembly for one month and would call it off on 2 March 2024. Still, they continued their assembly to until 29 May 2024, and it did not appear that they would call it off. Their demands included (1) Mr. Thaksin must be brought back to prison, (2) concerned authorities that offered help to Mr. Thaksin must be held accountable, (3) the Ombudsman must explain why the Department of Corrects was quoted as saying that he had gone to see Mr. Thaksin on the 14th floor of the Police General Hospital, (4) personnel in justice affairs must show their stand on the case of Mr. Thaksin and whether it would damage the justice system or not, (5) 20,000 people are invited to sign a letter of petition to take action against the National Anti-Corruption Commission for their failure to hold to account those who had offered help to Mr. Thaksin,

Overview about cases in May

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), since the Free Youth led public assemblies on 18 July 2020 until 31 May 2024, at least 1,954 individuals have been charged for participating in public assemblies or expressing their political opinions in 1,296 cases.

Of this, 268 children under 18 years 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

The court has also ruled in a dozen of cases against Section 112 and four cases against the Emergency Decree. Among important cases, “Thanaphon”, a 24-year-old-mother with newborn from Uthaithani, was accused of posting a comment in a Facebook post which featured a doctored image of King Rama VIII and Rama IX in 2021. She pleaded guilty even though no attorney was appointed to assist her during the police investigation. Later, she was convicted and sentenced to four years of imprisonment by the Talingchan Criminal Court. It was initially reduced to two years and put on hold. Nonetheless, the Chief Justice argued against the suspension of the sentence and the public prosecutor lodged the appeal motion. The Appeals Court, as a result, overturned the initial verdict holding the defendant’s act an infringement and causing damage to the monarchy and revoked the suspension of the sentence. She was granted bail pending the Supreme Court’s trial. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled on 27 May 2024 to uphold the Appeals Court’s verdict. As a result, Thanaphon was instantly brought to the Thonburi Women's Correctional Institution as her case has reached the final verdict. According to available information, this was the second case against Section 112 after 2020 that has reached the trial of the Supreme Court. In both cases, although the defendants pleaded guilty, but the Supreme Court refused to suspend their sentences.5

Therefore, as of May 2024, at least 42 individuals remain incarcerated in jail for expressing their political views or due to political reasons (26 of whom incarcerated for an offence against Section 112). They can be divided into at least 24 defendants who have been denied bail pending trial (17 of whom incarcerated for an offence against Section 112), one minor is remanded in custody at the juvenile detention center pursuant to a special measure in lieu of sentencing by the Court in a case concerning Section 112. In addition, at least 17 are being incarcerated in prisons since their cases have reached the final verdicts (eight individuals incarcerated for an offence against Section 112).