TLHR, student groups call for release of Facebook user behind viral shirt

Both Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) and the Student Union of Thailand (SUT) have issued statements calling for the release of Tiwagorn Withiton, a Facebook user whose post of him wearing a shirt printed with “I lost faith in the monarchy” previously went viral and who was taken by the police and forcibly admitted to a psychiatric hospital last week.

Tiwagorn Withiton

TLHR’s statement said that the police do not have the authority to press charges against Tiwagorn, as the sentence “I lost faith in the monarchy” does not count as defamation, an insult, or a threat under Section 112 of the Criminal Code. It also does not count as sedition under Section 116, or as any kind of computer data listed under Section 14 of the Computer Crime Act.

 

TLHR also state that Tiwagorn appears to be of sound mind and can still communicate normally. He is also not in a state where he might cause harm to others or requires urgent treatment, and therefore officials do not have the authority to force him to receive treatment. Moreover, as Tiwagorn had to be carried out of his house by 6 officers, it is evident that he did not consent to being admitted. The fact that the police took around 10 vehicles to Tiwagorn’s house without a request from his family could also mean that his family is not able to tell the authorities what they really want. Officers from Mueang Khon Kaen Provincial Police Station have also been maintaining a presence at the hospital in shifts at all times, which TLHR said does not suggest that Tiwagorn’s admission was consensual.

 

TLHR also said there is no reason why the police had to confiscate Tiwagorn’s computer and mobile phone, because they have nothing to do with medical treatment. TLHR believes that searching and confiscating objects without a warrant and without pressing charges is not lawful.

 

“To prevent the continuing improper use of medical procedures in order to arbitrarily detain a person, which is an unlawful action with a negative effect on both the public health sector and the judicial process, and to protect the right to freedom of expression as stated in Articles 9 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Thai Lawyers for Human Rights call on the Royal Thai Police to investigate whether the actions of officers from the Mueang Khon Kaen Provincial Police Station and the Chiangkhan Police Station are lawful or not, and call on the officers to immediately stop actions for which they do not have legal authority which could constitute intimidation of the people, and to immediately end the detention of Tiwagorn,” said TLHR.

 

The Student Union of Thailand (SUT) also issued a statement, co-signed by 18 other student groups, demanding that Tiwagorn be released immediately, calling Tiwagorn’s forced admission into the hospital “the use of a medical certificate to abduct a political dissident.” The SUT also demanded that members of parliament and human rights organizations closely follow the situation.

 

“Tiwagorn’s case is considered an attempt by the state to control people’s thinking and to prevent people from expressing their opinions freely, which opposes the change that is currently happening in the world. We call for the state to accept different opinions and respect the people’s freedom of expression so that Thailand can have a completely democratic system of government, not just half as it is today,” said SUT.

 

Tiwagorn was forcibly taken from his home on 9 July by police officers and admitted to Khon Kaen Rajanagarindra Psychiatric Hospital. His family said that officers from Mueang Khon Kaen Provincial Police Station stay with him around the clock while he is in hospital, and that they check the ID of every visitor and keep watch at all times when Tiwagorn’s family visit him. He has yet to be discharged from hospital.

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