An overview of public assemblies and harassment following the gatherings September 2022

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# Overall situation of public assemblies

Toward the end of September, the government lifted the Emergency Decree given the COVID-19 pandemic has largely eased up and there was no longer the need to declare the Emergency Decree. The lift was officially effective since 1 October 2022. From the first declaration of state of emergency on 26 March 2020 and its 19 renewals every one or two month, altogether Thailand was subjected to the state of emergency for 919 days or 2 years, 6 months and 6 days. Nevertheless, this month still saw further indictments on cases related to the Emergency Decree and more acquittal rulings as well as the order to not prosecute the cases. It remains to be seen if the lift of the Emergency Decree shall lead to a decline in the legal prosecution against activists.

At least 45 public assemblies and acts of expression have been organized throughout the country. 27 of them were related to the activities to demand the right to bail of political prisoners through the Stand Stop Imprisonment. 23 were organized by the Resistant Citizen Group in front of the Bangkok Supreme Court and the rest, four times, were the Stand Stop Tyranny at Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai, once a week by We, the people. The Thalu Gaz organized the “Stand, Trample, March to demand justice for our friends” at the Democracy Monument and the “Messaging Through Hell Operation” in front of the Bangkok Remand Prison, also to demand the right to bail.

September saw no activities organized on monarchy issues, although at least four activities were held to demand legal reform including the Sam Keeb Pop Culture Cover Mob by people clad in Thai traditional costume to hand a letter of petition to the ‘United Nations Human Rights Council’ via the UN Headquarters in Thailand to show their stand on the use of the Penal Code’s Section 112 and to demand rights and freedoms of all political prisoners in all cases. The Car Mob “Handing Peition Thalu Loke V.2” was organized by the Thalu Fah to submit a briefing on the situation of the weaponization of law to prosecute people on political charges to seven embassies including Vietnam, New Zealand, USA, Japan, Mexico, Singapore and Australia before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to be held in Thailand during 18-19 November 2022. The Alliance of People’s Organizations in the North organized the “Lab Sor Wor, the last chance to turn off Senators before elections” in Chiang Mai to demand the repeal of Section 272 of the Constitution to quash the power of the Senators. Amnesty International Thailand, academics and activists joined the march to urge the government to lift the Emergency Decree at the Office of The Prime Minister Office of the Permanent Secretary, before news that the Emergency Decree was to be lifted broke out on the same day. Nevertheless, the Centre of the People for the Protection of Monarchy has gathered to submit a letter to Gen Prawit Wongsuwan at the Office of The Prime Minister Office of the Permanent Secretary urging them to renew the Emergency Decree and to review the permission to allow Amnesty to operate in Thailand.

In addition, at least five activities were held to oust members of the cabinet by the People United Front led by Jatuporn Prompan and Nitithorn Lamluea with the aim to purge power of the “3P” including Gen Prayut Chan-ocha, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paochinda . Nevertheless, on 30 September 2022 when the Constitutional Court would rule if Gen Prayut Chan-ocha had reached the eight-year-term-limits or not, and if the Constitutional Court ruled that he had served as PM for eight years, he had to be removed as PM and the cabinet disbanded. The Constitutional Court ruled by majority votes that the premiership of Gen Prayut started from 2017 according to the time the current Constitution was promulgated. He has yet reached the eight-year-term-limits and is allowed to continue in the position. The Ratsadon and other alliances have thus gathered people who wanted to listen to the verdict at Skywalk, Pathumwan intersection. As the verdict was released, it caused outcries from the people and it was proposed that people should wear black outfit for one week to show their opposition to the verdict. In addition, the People United Front organized an activity on the same issue at the Ratchaprasong intersection.

At least two activities were held on education issues. The SAAP 24:7 conducted a poll among students if they wanted to have any kind of space at the Ang Kaew Reservoir, Chiang Mai University to make the students’ voice heard by the university administration and to urge them to realize the importance of the 24/7 learning space in university. The Anonymous Student Alliance in Lampang conducted a poll on the question “Do you agree with freedom to choose hairstyle?” opposite to the Kalayanee School to demand students’ freedom to choose hairstyle. On the environmental and land issues, at least two activities were organized. The La River Basin Alliance with more than 40 members submitted a letter of petition to the Inspector General of the Office of Prime Minister in Mae La Noi District, Mae Hong Son to oppose fluoride mine. 30 members of the Federation of Thai Fisherfolk Association from the South and West have gathered at the Government House to demand a legal ban on small fish catch invoking Section 57.

As to other issues, five labour activists led by Somyot Pruksakasemsuk have gone to answer to charges concerning the violation of the Emergency Decree following their Prayut-Gets-Out assembly on 23 August 2022 with fellow activists turned up to give them moral support. A public statement was issued on labour issues as well. An activity was organized to mark the 16th anniversary of the 19 September 2006 coup by Thalu Fah at the 14 October Memorial. Poems were recited and candles lit to commemorate those who had dedicated their lives to fight dictators. On the same days, the Thalu CMU and the Chiang Mai University Democracy Club jointly organized an art exhibition “Under the Top Boot of Dictatorship” at Kwai Yim lawn, Ang Kaew Reservoir, Chiang Mai University to mark the coup 16 years ago.

# Prosecutions against members of the public

since the Free Youth led public assemblies on 18 July 2020 until 30 September 2022, at least 1,860 individuals have been charged for participating in public assemblies or expressing their political opinions in 1,139 cases. Of this, 283 are youth under 18 years of age in 210 cases. Compared with August 2022, seven more individuals have been charged in 19 new cases (counting only those who have never been charged before.) Altogether, there have been at least 3,704 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 215 suspects in 234 cases

Newly charged this month include the case against Waranya Sae Ngo who was arrested in front of the Bangkok Remand Prison after participating in an activity to free our friends. The arrest warrant was executed one day after it had been issued as a result of her singing Faiyen’s sons during an activity to oust Gen Prayut Chan-ocha who has served as PM for eight years at the Victory Monument on 23 August 2022. After being held in custody for one night at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, she was allowed to post bail.22 Four new indictments were made including against Shinawatra ‘Bright’ Chankrachang for making a speech about the transferring of crown property to private property of the King during the Stand Stop Imprisonment at Nonthaburi pier on 4 February 2022. Bright is now charged for Section 112 in altogether seven cases, five of which have reached the trial, and two under police investigation.Ked and Yuy (pseudonym) was indicted following their holding signs during Car Mob #DuanNakhonPingChiangMaiOustingPrayut on 1 August 2021. Ton (real name withheld) was indicted for holding signs during Car Mob #DuanNakhonPingChiangMaiOustingPrayut on 7 August 2021. Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Jatupat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa was indicted for the “Organizing mob to oust them” protest on 20 August 2020 at the Democracy Monument in Khon Kaen and “Where there is warrant, there is a Mob” protest on 10 September 2020.

Verdicts have been delivered in four cases, two which saw the defendants pled guilty including Boonlue (pseudonym) for his three comments in Facebook to argue with others about the good characteristics of a king and the need to have monarchy reform. He was indicted on the Penal Code’s Section 112 and the Computer Crime Act’s Section 14(3). He was sentenced to the highest penalty which was three years of imprisonment. Given his guilty plea, it was reduced by a half to one year and six months with two years of suspension and one of probation.26 Apson (pseudonym) was indicted for sharing Pavin’s Facebook post which was critical of the public relations about the members of the Thai royal family. The indictment was made based on the Penal Code’s Section 112 and the Computer Crime Act’s Section 14(3). The court sentenced her to four years of imprisonment. Given her guilty plea, it was reduced to two years with three years of suspension. In three other cases, the defendants did not plead guilty. Jatuporn “New” Saeoueng was indicted for wearing Thai traditional costume during the Mob Fashion Show “People’s Runway” in front of Wat Khaek, Silom on 29 October 2020. She was sentenced to three years of imprisonment and for an offence against the Public Assembly Act, she was fined for 1,500 baht. Given her cooperation to the investigation, the imprisonment was reduced by one third to two years of imprisonment without suspension and a fine of 1,000 baht. She was brought to the Central Women's Correctional Institution on 12 September 2022 before the Appeals Court allowed her to post bail on 14 September 2022. She spent three days in remand in custody. Tiwagorn Withiton was indicted for wearing a shirt with the statement “I have lost faith in the monarchy” and for posting the photo in Facebook as well as his posts to urge the monarchy to stop invoking Section 112 and to release four core members of the Ratsadon in February 2021. The court acquitted him citing the statement referred to the "monarchy" and since the prosecution witnesses testified that the term "monarchy" included royal family members, so the court could not find him guilty of defaming King Rama X and monarchy is not an element of crime according to Section 112.

Nevertheless, of the 12 cases decided, there were guilty plea made in five cases including the case against Punnaphat and Army Corporal Methin and the court sentenced them to imprisonment without suspension. In 11 cases where there were not guilty pleas, the courts acquitted them in two cases for all charges including the cases against Issares Udanon and Tiwagorn Withiton. In two other cases, the defendants were acquitted on Section 112, but convicted on the Computer Crime Act including the cases against Charas and Wutthiphat. In the remaining seven cases, the defendants were convicted on Section 112 and sentenced to imprisonments without suspension. This could indicate the tendency of Section 112 case decisions. In cases where the defendants plead guilty, after being convicted, the court tends to offer them suspended imprisonment. But in cases where the defendants do not plead guilty, the court tend to impose imprisonment without suspension. This has prompted some defendants to retract their testimony later such as the case of Saharath Charoension, who was indicted on the Penal Code’s Section 112 and the Computer Crime Act’s Section 14(3) for allegedly posting three twitter messages concerning the sickness of the Queen Suthida and for posting one video clip. He later retracted his statement and decided to plead guilty hoping to receive a suspended sentence.

2. Sedition pursuant to the Penal Code’s Section116, at least 127 suspects in 39 cases

Sitthanon “Faison” Songsiri was arrested by police executing the warrant issued by the Thanyaburi Provincial Court on 14 August 2020 at her office in Lat Prao for being a MC during the #ThammasatBearingItNoMore on 10 August 2020 at the Phayanak lawn, Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus. The demonstration took place over two years ago. She was allowed to post bail on own recognizance.33 In addition, a decision was made to not prosecute the case against Mr. Phon (pseudonym), member of the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) for allegedly being an admin of the group’s Facebook Page and for posting to invite people to participate in public assemblies causing public disturbance. The public prosecutor states that they could find no evidence to implicate him.

3. An offence against the Emergency Decree, at least 1,468 suspects in 661 cases (since May 2020)

This month saw verdicts delivered in six cases, five of which were dismissed including the cases against Thara (last name withheld) and Serath (last name withheld) for participating in “Mobile Car Mob to Submit Letter to the World” by Thalu Fah on 20 August 2021. The court finds prosecution evidence not credible and there was no need to adjudicate on other issues. Nutchaphon Prailin and Chaiphan Saksricharoenying was indicted for participating in #Mob17Oct2020 at the Wong Wian Yai BTS station. The court dismissed cases against them citing the assembly was peaceful and an exercise of constitutional rights and freedoms. Khunphat Kachana was indicted for selling stuff in front of the Criminal Court on 2 May 2021, He was acquitted since the court cited inconsistency of evidence given by prosecution witnesses and it did not appear the defendant was involved with the use of violence. And Kulwadee Deechan and Suthila Luenkham was indicted for being organizers of Car Mob on 1 August 2021. They were acquitted as the court finds it was a public assembly made possible by the exercise of constitutional rights and freedoms. And in the case against youth “Mimi” for participating in #Mob25Oct20 at the Ratchaprasong intersection when she was only 16. The Juvenile Court acquitted her citing she was a new generation of youth interested in politics. Her rally speech was the exercise of her legal rights and freedoms.

In one case, conviction was made against against Thawee Thingwiset, Thanadon Chantharat, Baiboon (last name withheld) and Nutchaphon Pailin, who were rounded up while transporting sound system in front of Phyathai Hospital 2 after the #Mob3Sept21 at Ratchaprasong intersection. The court finds Thawee and Thanadon guilty of violating the Emergency Decree and fines them 20,000 baht each. Given their cooperation with the investigation, the fine was reduced by one third to 13,333.33 baht and the other charges were dismissed. But since Thawee has been remanded in custody for over 170 days before the trial, he does not need to pay the fine, and instead, he gets the compensation of 85,000 baht.

Even though the courts tend to dismiss cases in September, two more cases were indicted including the one against Supphawit Prasinthong for participating in the 2nd Phetchabun Car Mob on 19 September 2021 and Sinburi “Mag” Saengkla, for allegedly setting fire on the arch set up in honor of the King and a traffic box in front of Ratwinit Secondary School during their participation in the demonstration marking the 15th anniversary of the military coup on 19 September 2021. Five activists are charged on labour issues from organizing an activity to demand solutions to the quality of life of workers and to oust Gen Prayut Chan-ocha for reaching his eight-year-term-limits as Prime Minister in front of the Government House on 23 August 2022. Four more people and activists were also charged for organizing a march to oust Gen Prayut Chan-ocha on #8YearsPrayut from the Victory Monument to the Government House during 23-24 August 2022.

4. An offence against the Public Assembly Act, at least 107 suspects in 75 cases

The Don Muang Kwaeng Court rules on the case against seven activists for their assembly in front of the Bang Khen Police Station the night of 7 August 2020 to show their solidarity with Panupong “Mike” Chadnok and Anon Nampha whose arrest warrants were executed in the case related to the “Free Youth” demonstration. The court finds Parit, Chatchai, Passaravalee and Sukriya guilty for violating the Public Assembly Act and fines them 11,300 baht while sentenced them to two months of imprisonment, albeit suspended. The other defendants were fined for 4,500 baht for disobeying the order of public official. Given their cooperation with the investigation, the fine was reduced by one third to 3,000 baht each.

5. An offence against the Computer Crimes Act, at least 151 suspects in 171 cases

6. A contempt of court, at least 36 suspects in 20 cases, and insult of the court, at least 27 suspects in 7 cases

Adisak Sombatkham was charged for contempt of court after allegedly rising from his seat in courtroom and patting the back of a prison warden since the official was obstructing his view during the hearing on 8 April 2021. The Lower Court imposed a fine on him deeming his act causing disturbance in courtroom. The Appeals Court overturned the verdict citing it was a defense of basic rights to attend a public trial and quashed the 500-baht-fine.

Of 1,139 cases, 248 have reached their final verdicts, many of which were petty offences settled by paying fine to the police or the court. The public prosecutor also decided to not prosecute 30 cases while 891 cases are still ongoing.

Nevertheless, this month saw ten police officers executing search warrant and threatening Anunat (pseudonym). 53, a woman from Nong Khai. They tried to search her property even though it was yet the time permitted in the search warrant. Anunat was also told to board an unmarked minivan with them. She taken by force to board the van and her phone was seized. It was so shocking and prompted her to resist and scold the police. The police claimed she had committed a flagrant offence for obstructing the police preventing them from executing the search warrant. She was brought to the Nong Kjai Police Station to prepare her arrest memo without the presence of her attorney. She was allowed to post bail placing 20,000 baht as surety. The police claimed they had raided her house to prevent her from posting more offensive messages given the current policy of preemption. The two phones seized shall be sent to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) for further examination.

# People remanded in custody while defending political charges

This month saw the release of 19 activists including Ngernta Khamsaen and Chiratchaya Sakulthong who were remanded in custody for contempt of court following their speeches to criticize the court and its performance during an activity to demand the right to bail for “Bung-Bai Por” in front of the South Bangkok Civil Court on 15 July 2022 on 2 September 2022/ They were remanded in custody altogether for seven days. Seven activists of Thalu Fah were released following their activity to throw color paint at the headquarters of the Democrat Party to demand they pulled out from the coalition. They were remanded in custody from 30 July 2022 until 12 September 2022, altogether 56 days. While Jittarin and Chatchai were released on 13 September 2022. Public prosecutor decided to not indict Rock Thanarat who was arrested from a protest on 19 มิถุนายน 2022 at Din Daeng Intersection. As a result, he was released on 11 September 2022 after being remanded in custody for 84 days since 20 June 2022. Ekkachai Hongkangwan was allowed to post bail by the Supreme Court after having filing five bail applications. He was convicted for posting anecdotes about sex in prison and was released on 19 September 2022. Altogether, he was detained for 154 days. The Appeals Court allowed eight activists from Thalu Gaz to post bail after they have been remanded for participating in the assemblies at the Din Daeng Intersection. They were released on 29 September 2022. Altogether, they were remanded in custody for 105 days, save for Baiboon who was also remanded on other cases. After his attorney applied for his bail on other cases on 30 September 2022, he was released on the same day.

# The state of harassment against the public in September 2022

In September, there have been at least two reported incidences of harassment. One was an harassment during the graduation ceremony at the Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University. Arm (pseudonym), 18 and Kul (pseudonym). 22, activists from Dung Din Group, was stalked by the police and had their photo taken throughout the event. The officials claimed their names were in the watchlist even though the two activists frankly told them that they were there just to congratulate the new graduates and did not anticipate such act of harassment. In addition, an attempt was made to prevent the activity “Dawn Of Justice!!!” by the Mok Luang Rim Nam Group. It was reported that the police summoned caretakers of the venue for art exhibition for a talk and told them to disallow the flashing of three fingers and any discussion on Section 112 and the monarchy. Being exposed to the pressure, the caretakers of the venue decided to reschedule the exhibition indefinitely. By the slip of tongue, one of the organizing members said that “someone bigger than the venue owner, and more powerful than the police, to stop this event from taking place”

Despite an overall decline of harassment compared to the previous month, but from taking with the activists, we have found some of them continue to face harassment including being visited at home, receiving phone call or having their photo taken during the time when VIP persons visit the local area. Therefore, for the trend of harassment in October, it is likely that any activity on political issues will continue to be subject to surveillance and prevention by the authorities including the attempt to organize the “Dawn Of Justice!!!” event and issues concerning the monarchy remain sensitive which may lead to the harassment against people from all walks of life including when there are visits of VIP people in local area. The level of harassment shall vary to the frequency of activity held in each month.