Activist Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep was immediately re-arrested on a royal defamation charge under Section 112, Thailand’s lèse majesté law, after he was granted bail on a criminal organization charge and released from Bangkok Remand Prison.
Piyarat was arrested on 6 March along with another 47 members of the We Volunteer (WeVo) protest guard group by an armed police SWAT team, who used force and did not produce an arrest warrant, while they were at a shopping mall, eating and waiting to attend the protest at the judicial court complex on Ratchadapisek Road. He was detained pending trial on a criminal organization charge, while the rest of the group were granted bail.
On 2 April, the Criminal Court granted bail for Piyarat using 45,000 baht as security, on the ground that the inquiry officer cannot present enough evidence to confirm that he was guilty, as when he was arrested, he was with 2 – 3 other people and did not resist arrest.
However, after he was granted bail, Piyarat was immediately detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison and taken to Prachachuen Police Station, as the Kalasin Provincial Court had issued an arrest warrant for him on a royal defamation charge under Section 112.
The arrest warrant was issued on 2 April and was requested for by an officer from Yang Talad Police Station. However, the reason the warrant was issued was not stated.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported at 20.40 on 2 April that Piyarat was then taken to Yang Talad Police Station and would be taken to Kalasin Provincial Court on 3 April for a temporary detention request.
According to TLHR, Piyarat is being charged with royal defamation for printing banners criticising the government’s Covid-19 vaccine programme and hanging them from trees, electricity poles, and a commemoration arch for the king along a road in the Yang Talad District area.
The banners contained messages such as “Giving the spotlight to the palace,” “Vaccine company monopoly,” “conflict of interest,” and “royal favour.” Pictures of the banners were also posted on Piyarat’s Facebook page and the We Volunteer Twitter account.
In addition to the royal defamation charge, Piyarat is also being charged with importing into a computer system data relating to an offence against national security under Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act.
At 11.00 on 3 April, the Kalasin District Court ruled to have Piyarat temporarily detained on the ground that the charge under Section 112 is severe, that he is likely to repeat the offence and tamper with evidence. The court denied him bail and he was taken to be detained at Kalasin Remand Prison.