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AI: Prominent Activist arrested for the second time reveals severe restrictions on freedom of expression

Panupong Chadnok aka “Mike”, a prominent pro-democracy activist, was arrested on five charges related to his speech at “Thammasat Cha Mai Thon” (Thammasat will no longer endure) at Thammasat University, Rangsit Campus, on 10 August 2020.

Piyanut Kotsan, Director of Amnesty International Thailand, said that the second arrest of Panupong today explicitly reveals the Thai authority’s attempts to suppress the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. It is time that the Thai authorities stop instilling fear in the public and instead thrive for progressive dialogues.

 “Thai authorities use lawsuits as weapons to shut down peaceful criticism of the Government. Amnesty International reaffirms that the authorities must end attempts to arrest and charge peaceful anti-Government leaders and demonstrators, and tolerate their opinions.

“The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is fundamental and must be protected for everyone who chooses to exercise this right.  The authorities must also protect the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association. The Government has a duty to promote these rights, instead of infringing on them and intimidating those who peacefully exercise them

“Despite having an elected government in place for more than a year, Thailand has not made any progress with regard to improving its human rights record. The Government continues to intimidate and take legal action against those who peacefully exercise their rights. It is the right moment for the international community to pressure the Thai Government to comply with international human rights law.”

Panupong Jadnok at the 10 August demonstration at Thammasat University's Rangsit campus
 

Background

On 24 August 2020, police issued an arrest warrant for Panupong Chadnok, aka Mike, at Roi Sao Market, Rayong province, while he was protesting with a banner reading “Filling our sea 1,000-rai, what do Rayong people get.” His staged protest and arrest happened shortly before Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrived at the market. The police had presented the warrant issued by the Prathumthani Provincial Court for ‘incitement of violence’ under Section 116 of the Penal Code, related to his speech at “Thammasat Cha Mai Thon” (Thammasat will no longer endure) at Thammasat University, Rangsit Campus, on 10 August 2020. Mike is currently detained at Klongluang Police Station, Pathumthani province.

The latest warrant was issued by the Prathumthani Provincial Court and refers to five charges including Sedition under Section 116 of the Penal Code, dissemination of security information under Section 14(3) of the 2017 Computer Crime Act, Offense under Emergency Decree against the Regulations on Assembly, Offense on the use of amplifier without permission under Article 4 of the Control of the use of amplifier Act, and Offense on participating in the acts that increase the risk for infection under Article 34 of Communicable Disease Act.

This is Panupong’s second arrest warrant, the first having been issued on 7 August 2020. At that time the police arrested and detained him at the police station before requesting the Bangkok Criminal Court to issue a warrant of detention. The police allegedly filed eight charges regarding his demonstration with Free Youth at Democracy Monument on 18 July 2020, the same day that Lawyer Anon Nampa was also arrested and detained. Even though the court allowed bail, both of them were restricted under bail conditions not to repeat the act they were charged with.