Thailand: authorities must end stalling tactics and drop charges against peaceful critics

Responding to news that the Office of the Attorney-General has made a second postponement on decisions whether to indict three Future Forward Party executives under the Computer Crimes Act for comments made during a June 2018 Facebook Live broadcast, Amnesty International’s Thailand campaigner Katherine Gerson said:

“As the prosecutorial decision on this case is further postponed, AI calls again on authorities to take no further delay in dropping this latest criminal proceedings initiated against individuals solely on the basis of their peaceful exercise of their rights. AI underlined its concern that this is a latest manifestation of a long-standing tactic of holding up political opponents and peaceful critics with drawn out and lengthy criminal proceedings, regardless of whether the case comes to trial.”

Background

The three Future Forward Party members – leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, registrar Klaikong Vaidhyakarn, and executive member Jaruwan Saranket – face charges for broadcasting a Facebook Live video. In the video, the three talked about the Palang Pracharat party, which has proposed Head of the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Prayuth Chan-o-cha as its prime ministerial candidate, and discussed its practice of approaching election candidates from other parties and encouraging them to switch sides while threatening them with criminal charges.

The Thai authorities alleged that the three had broadcasted false information that could jeopardise national security during the transitional period to a civilian government, charging them under article 14(2) of the Computer Crimes Act. The offense is punishable by up to five years in prison, or a fine of THB 100,000 (approximately USD 3,155), or both.

On 6 April, Thanathorn was also charged in another case with sedition and aiding and abetting criminal suspects in 2015. The police claimed that he helped student activists from then New Democracy Movement (NDM) escape from a police station during a series of anti-coup protests and appearances in May and June 2015. Thanathorn is facing up to seven years in jail and will be tried in a military court if indicted.

The party’s Secretary-General Piyabutr Saengkanokkul is also facing charges of imparting false information online, under article 14(2) of the Computer Crimes Act, and contempt of court under article 198 of the Criminal Code for reading out a statement on the Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve the Thai Raksa Chart Party in a broadcasted video. He faces up to seven years in prison, or a fine of THB 100,000 (approximately USD 3,155), or both. On 23 April, the Election Commission accused Thanathorn of holding shares in a media company - an act that allegedly breaches Article 98 of the election laws, barring election candidates from having shares

in media business after registering in the election. Thanathorn denies all allegations against him. The Election Commission could disqualify him from taking office. Amnesty International has put forward a Human Rights Agenda which outlines nine top human rights issues for the elected government to address. It calls for dropping criminal proceedings against a range of individuals, including politicians, lawyers, activists, and human rights defenders. They face prosecution charges, including sedition and criminal defamation, for organizing peaceful protests, criticising authorities and speaking about violations of labour rights.