Student activists petition against contempt of court charges

Six student activists have chosen to petition the court over their contempt of court charges, arguing their symbolic actions and songs outside a provincial court in support of Jatuphat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattararaksa were a legitimate exercise of the freedom of expression.
 
On 8 May 2017, the activists delivered a petition against their charges to Khon Kaen Provincial Court. The group was charged with contempt of court on 24 April 2017 after organising activities in support of the embattled Pai Dao Din outside the Court on 10 February, the day Jatuphat was formally indicted for lèse majesté.
 
After the group pleaded not guilty, the court postponed the trial until 31 May 2017. The six were released on bail of 50,000 baht per person, with the requirement that an appeal be lodged within 15 days. 
 
The petition asks the Director-General of Khon Kaen Provincial Court to reconsider the prosecution of the group for “making speeches, singing, making gestures and using equipment to symbolically show dissatisfaction with the trial in the vicinity of the court”, since the activities were too far from the courtroom to disturb or obstruct the hearing that day.
 
The petition maintains that the group’s activities were no more than an exercise of the basic freedom of expression, and moreover reflected the views of many students and young people towards Thailand’s justice system. The six point out that the activities did not cause any damage to property or endanger others.
 
On 10 February, the court did not announce bans on any actions before or during the hearings, nor did any security staff attempt to intervene during the group’s activities. As such, the activists reasoned in good faith that their actions were permissible, pointing out that they have fully complied with all subsequent court orders.
 
Finally, the group’s appeal stresses that their actions are protected under international law including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which enshrine freedom of expression. These rights are also accepted in Thailand’s own constitution. 
 
A group of activists in front of Khon Kaen Provincial Court on 10 February 2017 to demand Jatuphat’s release (Photo from The Isaan Record)