On 8 March, the criminal court ordered the detention pending trial of Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Jatupat Boonbattararaksa and Panupong Jadnok, leading figures in the pro-democracy protests, on sedition, royal defamation and several other charges. Piyarat Chongtep, leader of the We Volunteer protest guard group also detained for criminal organization.
At the front, from right to left: Panupong Jadnok and Jatupat Boonbattararaksa.
The first 3 reported along with another 14 people as scheduled on 8 March morning to be charged over the 19-20 September 2020 protests at Thammasat University and Sanam Luang. In total, they were charged with sedition, organizing more than 10 people to cause disorder, unlawful procession, emergency decree, vandalism and destroying antiquity site. Only the 3 had additional charge on royal defamation. 14 were allowed bail.
There were actually 15 people summoned to the court in this set of lawsuit. Only 14 were able to made to the court as the another one, Chaiamorn ‘Ammy’ Kaewwiboonpan has already been detained in prison.
Piyarat was arrested along with another 47 We Volunteer (WeVo) members by a SWAT police team who used force and did not produce an arrest warrant on 6 March prior to the protest at the judicial court complex. All but Piyarat were allowed bail. The WeVo case process is still in the police stage.
Movement supporters expressed disappointment and anger after bail was again refused by gathering at the Victory Monument on the evening of 8 March to protest. They asked people to dress in black as a symbolic show of resistance before dispersing at around 21.00.
Amnesty International released a statement claming that the mass prosecutions, amount to 382 protest leaders and demonstrators in 207 cases since 2020, tantamount to systematic suppression of freedom.
“It is profoundly worrying that the Thai authorities are systematically prosecuting a large number of protest leaders and demonstrators. In certain cases, the suspects may face up to 15 years of imprisonment. This is a severe and disproportionate punishment. Given the normally protracted period of trial, the prosecution of dissenters or critics of the government is being weaponized to silence and retaliate against those who dare to challenge the state power.” said Piyanut Kotsan, Director of Amnesty International.
“Mass prosecutions and denial of bail demonstrate how the justice process is being used as a tool to brazenly attack the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. People are entitled to legitimate rights to express themselves and participate in activities concerning social issues.
“The Thai authorities must stop treating critics as if they are criminals or a threat to national security. They must be released and the charges against them must be immediately dropped in the condition where there is an insufficient evidence under international criminal standard.” said Piyanut.
The detentions increase the number of pro-democracy protesters detained pending trial over demonstrations since the beginning of 2020 demanding the resignation of the prime minister and his cronies, constitutional amendments and monarchy reform.
As of 8 March, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that 18 people are now detained pending trial:
- 7 leading figures of Ratsadorn, one of the protest organizing groups: Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Patiwat Saraiyaem, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Jatupat Boonbattararaksa and Panupong Jadnok. The first 4 have been detained since 9 February.
- 5 people who have been charged with damage to police vehicles in October 2020: Nathanon Chaimahabut, Thawat Sukprasoet, Sakchai Tangchitsadudi, Somkhit Tosoi and Chaluai Ekasak. They have been detained since 24 February.
- Chaiamorn ‘Ammy’ Kaewwiboonpan, lead singer of the The Bottom Blues band, detained for allegedly burning a portrait of King Rama X in front of Klong Prem Central Prison.
- Parinya ‘Port’ Cheewinkulpathom, a member of the self-exiled band ‘Faiyen’, charged under the lèse majesté law over his Facebook post in 2016 and detained since 6 March.
- 3 people detained since 29 January for allegedly throwing a homemade ‘pingpong’ bomb at the protest at Samyan Mitrtown on 10 January. .
- Piyarat Chongtep, arrested on 6 March and detained 2 days later.
TLHR also reported that 5 people have been sentenced to prison after being found guilty of lèse majesté:
- Anchan, sentenced on 19 January 2021 to 43 years.
- Wichai, sentenced on 24 December 2015 to 30 years and 60 months by a military court.
- Burin, sentenced on 30 April 2016 to 10 years and 16 months by a military court.
- Pratin, sentenced on 23 November 2015 to 8 years and 4 months.
- Prapan, sentenced on 11 May 2021 to 2 years.