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The 4 “Ratsadon” leading figures bail denial is a breach of presumption of innocence

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch concern over the bail denial of the 4 prominent activists as an abuse of the judicial process to silence peaceful critics. 

On 9 February 2020, the public prosecutors indicted and rejected bail of the four prominent democracy activists including Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem for violating the Criminal Code’s Section 112 on lèse majesté charges and others from gathering during 19-20 September 2020, and Parit was also indicted for violating Section 112 in a separate case stemming from the "Mob Fest" rally at the Democracy Monument on 14 November 2020.  

After the court denied them bail, four of them were taken to the Bangkok Remand Prison to be held in custody pending the trial. They shall remain in custody until the court grants them bail or until the trial is concluded or until the cases against them are dismissed by the court, the length of time which is undeterminable.  

Piyanut Kotsan, Director of Amnesty International Thailand states that “This is an abuse of the judicial process to silence peaceful critics. This is a long-standing pattern of abusive lengthy pretrial detention of those facing on lèse majestè, Penal code Article 112 charges under pretext of national security.”   

Amnesty International Thailand reiterates that the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly is a fundamental right upheld by Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Thailand has committed itself. The exercise of such freedom is also guaranteed by the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand 2017.    

Meanwhile, the HRW Director, states that The number of lèse majestè cases in Thailand is rapidly increasing with no end in sight. Since Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the PM ordered to use every law against the members of public who call for democratic reform, at least 58 people were charged with lèse majestè law in 44 cases.

Past practice has repeatedly shown that Thai authorities, particularly the police, are unwilling to reject allegations of lèse majestè, no matter how specious, for fear of being seen as disloyal to the monarchy.

“To respond to persistent public protests, authorities are abusing Thailand’s draconian lèse majestè law to aggressively clamp down on speech they don’t like,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Holding people in pretrial detention for peaceful expression portends a return to the dark days when people simply charged with this crime end up spending years in jail while their trials drag on interminably.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified, encourages bail for criminal suspects. Article 9 states that, “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.” Those denied bail need to be tried as expeditiously as possible, Human Rights Watch said.

The ICCPR protects the right to freedom of expression. General Comment 34 of the Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors compliance with the covenant, has stated that laws such as those for lèse majestè “should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person that may have been impugned” and that governments “should not prohibit criticism of institutions.”

“The Thai government should address the demands of critics and protesters instead of putting them in jail for long periods before they are tried on flimsy charges,” Adams said. “The authorities should immediately end their heavy-handed enforcement of the lèse majestè law and engage in a dialogue with United Nations experts and others about amending the law to bring it into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations.”

Background   

Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem have been indicted for the violation of lèse majestè offence pursuant to the Criminal Code’s Sections 112 and 116, and the Act on Ancient Monuments, Antiques, Objects of Art, and National Museums 1999 as a result of the "19 September Reclaiming People’s Power" protest at Sanam Luang during 19 - 20 September 2020.

Parit was also indicted for violating Section 112 in a separate case stemming from the "Mob Fest" rally at the Democracy Monument on 14 November 2020.

After the court denied them bail, they were taken to the Bangkok Remand Prison to be held in custody pending the trial. They shall remain in custody until the court grants them bail or until the trial is concluded or until the cases against them are dismissed by the court, the length of time which is undeterminable.  

The court states that "judging from the gravity of the charges and the nature of the cases, given the high penalty rate and the aggravated nature of the cases, and given the repeated commission of the same offence at several times and several places, the court is convinced that by granting them temporary release, the four defendants may again recommit the same alleged offences. Therefore, their bail request is denied. The bail applications are dismissed."   

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