Court dismisses Emergency Decree charge against gender equality activist

The Central Juvenile and Family Court yesterday (22 September) dismissed charges against an 18-year-old gender equality activist accused of violating the ban on gatherings under the State of Emergency for giving a speech at a protest in October 2020.

Mimi (Centre) performing the feminist anthem "A Rapist in Your Path" in front of the Democrat Party headquarters following several sexual assault allegations against the party's former deputy leader Prinn Panitchpakdi in early 2022

Mimi, a non-binary gender equality activist, was charged with violation of the Emergency Decree and obstructing traffic for giving a speech during the 25 October 2020 protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection. At the time of the protest, Mimi was 16 years old.

Mimi testified in court that they were not involved with the activists who organized the protest and so would not have been able to call it off. They said that on the day of the protest, they were with two other people near the police headquarters, which was an open space, before receiving a message asking whether anyone wanted to give a speech about women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, so they volunteered.

Mimi said that they spoke about gender equality and the problem of sexual violence, and also criticized the police’s use of violence to disperse protests. They also said that they did not prepare their speech in advance.

Mimi denied all charges, and refused to sign any document at the police inquiry level. Nevertheless, the public prosecutor indicted them in October 2021, accusing them of organizing a gathering without disease control measures and obstructing traffic.

Because Mimi was a minor, the Central Juvenile and Family Court did not allow observers in the courtroom. Mimi told TLHR that they themself and other young people charged in relation to the protests felt unsafe during the trials, as they felt pressured by questions asked at hearings and that they had already been judged guilty. Mimi also said that they preferred a third party to be present during hearings.

TLHR noted that all prosecution witnesses were police officers, who said that Mimi’s speech was planned by the organisers and that Mimi invited people to join another protest the next day, so the police considered them to be a protest organiser. However, the witnesses also told the defence lawyer that there was no evidence showing that Mimi was involved with the activist group Ratsadon or that they knew activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, who organized the 25 October 2020 protest.

One of the prosecution witnesses also told the defence lawyer during cross examination that there was no information indicating that Mimi was a protest leader or organiser, and that Mimi’s speech did not call on people to join protests. The same witness later told the public prosecutor that he believed Mimi was an organiser because they introduced themself before speaking.

Another prosecution witness, the Superintendent of Lumpini Police Station at the time of the protest, also testified that he was not at the protest when Mimi spoke, but learned of the event from the investigation report. He also said during cross examination that he did not initially recognize Mimi and thought they were activist Patsaravalee Thanakitvibulpon, He also did not know whether the gender equality activist group Women for Freedom and Democracy, now the Feminist’s Liberation Front Thailand, of which Mimi said they were a member, organized any activity.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that the Central Juvenile and Family Court yesterday (22 September) dismissed the charges against Mimi because the prosecution could not prove that they were one of the protest’s organisers. The Court found that prosecution witnesses were unable to confirm that they organized the protest and probably only guessed that she was an organiser. The Court also said that, as a 16-year-old student, Mimi was not capable of organizing the protest.  

The Court also ruled that the content of their speech was not illegal and that speaking is considered an exercise of their legal rights and freedoms.

TLHR noted that Mimi’s case was the first case to be dismissed in which a minor charged with violation of the Emergency Decree decided to fight the charge. It is also one of at least 28 cases in which courts have dismissed Emergency Decree charges against activists and protesters who took part in the 2020 – 2021 pro-democracy protests.

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