Political activists have urged the police to release Jatuphat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattararaksa, saying the court decision to repeatedly reject his bail requests is ‘unconstitutional’.
On 5 May 2017, Chalita Bundhuwong, a Kasetsart University lecturer, and Nuttaa Mahattana, an independent political activist, submitted a letter to Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, Chief of the Royal Thai Police, at the National Police Office in Bangkok.
The two submitted the letter on behalf of Wiboon Boonpattararaksa, the father of Jatuphat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa, a law student and key member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) who has been detained at Khon Kaen Prison since December 2016.
The two demand that the authorities release Jatuphat, saying that the court’s repeated refusal to release the activist is ‘against the 2017 Constitution’.
Under Article 34 of the 2017 Constitution, people are free to express their opinions by means of speaking, writing, publishing, and other means subject only to provisions of the laws enacted to protect national security, rights and liberties of other people, and public order, morals and health, the letter states.
The two added that Jatuphat should be freed in order to travel to South Korea to accept the 2017 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, which will be awarded on 18 May in Gwangju, South Korea.
The selection committee of the South Korean May 18 Memorial Foundation last month announced that Jatuphat is the winner of the prestigious award.
The award commemorates the Democratic Uprising or the Gwangju Uprising of 18 May 1980, when Gwangju citizens battled the Chun Doo-hwan dictatorship of South Korea. Estimates suggest that up to 606 people may have died during the crackdown by government troops.
The only other Thai to have won the award was Angkhana Neelaphaijit in 2006. She was cited because she 'was unrelenting in her efforts to obtain justice, unsparing in her criticism of government authorities, and has taken the lead role as an articulate and courageous spokesperson for the families of disappeared persons in Thailand.' Angkhana is now a National Human Rights Commissioner.
Jatuphat is accused of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, for sharing on his Facebook account a controversial biography of King Vajiralongkorn published by BBC Thai. He is the first person to be arrested for lèse majesté under the reign of the new King.
Shortly after he was arrested for lèse majesté on 3 December 2016, the court released him on bail. However, his bail was revoked on 22 December after he posted a satirical message mocking the authorities on his Facebook account. The message read, “Economy is poor but they (authorities) took my money for bail.”
Despite the fact that more than 2,000 people shared the same article on Facebook and millions read it, he was the only one arrested for lèse majesté.
The court has consistently refused to release him on bail, reasoning that the activist mocked the authority of the state without fearing the law and is also battling other charges for violating the Public Referendum Act and the junta’s political gathering ban in his previous political activities.
Chalita Bundhuwong talking to the press about the letter urging for Pai Dao Din's release on 5 April 2017 (Photo from Israchai Jong Facebook)