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Thailand: Mass prosecutions tantamount to systematic suppression of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression and opinion

The denial of bail for four protest leaders on Monday (8 March) is "tantamount to a systematic suppression of freedom of expression and freedom of opinion" in Thailand, says Amnesty International, who calls on the government to end legal prosecution against dissenting voices. 

A funeral wreath with a placard saying "there is no more justice" was placed in front of the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road yesterday (9 March) during a protest after the court denied bail for 4 other protest leaders. 

In pursuance to the prosecution of as many of 382 protest leaders and demonstrators in 207 cases since 2020, and the previous denial of bail for the four protest leaders, in additional with today’s the indictment of another 18 individuals, the denial of bail application of   Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Panuphong Jadnok, and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa related to the #19SeptRestoringPeoplePower demonstration as well as Piyarat Chongthep related to 6 March demonstration, this is tantamount to a systematic suppression of freedom of expression and freedom of opinion.

Piyanut Kotsan, Director of Amnesty International Thailand has this to say;

“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.”

“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.” 

Background

#19SeptRestoringPeoplePower: The prosecutions have resulted from the demonstration at Thammasat University’s Tha Pra Chan Campus and the adjacent Sanam Luang during 19 – 20 September 2020. The demonstrators have spoken and asserted their demands to rewrite the Constitution as proposed by the people, to have the government resign from office, and to reform the monarchy.

Updates of the cases and the suspects as of 8 March 2021 can be described as follows; 

1. #19SeptRestoringPeoplePower 7 are charged for violating the Penal Code’s Section 112 including Parit  Chiwarak, Anon Nampha, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem who have been remanded in custody pending the trial at the Bangkok Remand Prison since 9 February 2021. 14 are charged for violating the Penal Code’s Sections 116 and 215 (illegal assembly of ten persons and upward). All of the alleged offenders have previously reported themselves to the public prosecutors to hear the decision at the Office of Attorney General on 17 February at 10am, but the public prosecutors postponed the announcement to 8 March 2021. 

2. On 8 March 2021, the remaining 18 alleged offenders have gone to the public prosecutors again to hear the decision on their indictment. The public prosecutors decided to indict 18 individuals including Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Panupong  Jadnok, and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa on the Penal Code’s Sections 112 and 116 and other criminal offences. The other 15 alleged offenders have been indicted on the offence against the Penal Code’s Section 116 and other criminal offences. All of them have been brought to the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court for remand hearings as the public prosecutors proposed a remand in custody of all the 18 individuals. 

3. The Ratchadapisek Criminal Court granted the public prosecutors’ request to have all 18 remanded in custody and denied bail applications for Panusaya, Panupong and Jatupat. While Panusaya has been taken to her custody at the Central Women's Correctional Institution, Panupong and Jatupat which should be taken to the Bangkok Remand Prison, but finally found at they are being detained at Thanyaburi District Prison. The rest have been granted bail at 35,000 baht each. The next appointment is scheduled on March 15, 2021 at 9:00 am.

4. In addition, 18 We Volunteer guards were arrested on Saturday, March 6, 2021 and detained at the Border Patrol Police Division 1. Allegations violated the prohibition of public assembly under the Emergency Decree Act, on Public Administration in Emergency Situation B.E. 2548, the Communicable Disease Act 2015 section 209 and Section 210 (the offense of secret society and criminal association) under the Criminal Code. Two children under 18 years old were released on bail by placing 5,000 baht (approximately 162 USD) to the Juvenile and Family Court) while another arrestee were previously released. Thus, 14 of them were eventually released on bail by placing 45,000 baht (approximately 1,461 USD) to the court, only Piyarat Jongthep was denied of bail and finally found that he was transferred to Thanyaburi District Prison instead of the Bangkok Remand Prison

 

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