Patiwat ‘Mor Lam Bank’ Saraiyaem was allowed bail while 2 others were not, following their decision to withdraw their legal representation in protest against what they call an unfair judicial process where their right to legal consultation and the presumption of innocence were undermined.
The decision was made on 9 April after a request for temporary release had been submitted on 5 April for Patiwat, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Jatupat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattararaksa, who were detained on charges related to their activism at the 19-20 September protest at Thammasat University and Sanam Luang, a landmark protest where demands for monarchy reform were made in speeches and symbolic actions.
The request stated that Somyot is old and in frail health and that the prolonged detention would affect his family. Also, detention pending trial violates the principle of presumption of innocence. Somyot added that he could not properly spend time to find evidence to ensure a fair trial.
Jatupat testified in addition to his request that he did not have the intention to flee. Detention would affect his educational prospects as he is now a university student. And detention pending trial violates the principle of presumption of innocence.
Patiwat testified that if granted bail , he would not participate in any political gathering or give speeches infringing on the monarchy. He was willing to abide by every condition for release, including wearing an electronic tag, restricting his movements and reporting regularly to the court.
The other 2 defendants also accepted condition of not infringing on the monarchy and not participating in any activity that brought disgrace on the monarchy. They would also abide by all other conditions for release.
The court ruled that Patiwat was granted bail as it was convinced that he would not repeat the offense. The court ordered 200,000 baht bail with the condition that he not repeat similar offenses against the monarchy. Travel abroad is prohibited unless approved by the court. He is to report regularly to the court.
However, Somyot and Jatupat were not allowed bail due to their decision on 8 April to withdraw their legal representation and their refusal to participate in the trial, which made their testimonies untrustworthy. Jatupat and Somyot will therefore remain in prison after already being detained for over a month.
Beside these three, the court denied bail requests for 5 other defendants in detention pending trial: Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sitthijirawatthanakul, Panupong Jadnok and Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan. As of 9 April, Anon and Parit had been detained for 60 days and Panusaya and Panupong for 33 days.
Parit has been on a hunger strike, sustaining himself with only sweetened drinks and milk for more than 25 days while Panusaya and Phromson Wirathammachari, another person detained on remand for royal defamation, have been on a similar fast for a week.
Protest against ‘unfair trial’
The court’s refusal to grant bail to Somyot and Jatupat stems from the incident inside the trial room on 8 April when 22 defendants withdrew their legal representation in protest at court measures and treatment by prison officials which deny them the right to a fair and open trial.
The 23 defendants in the case are Chinnawat Chankrachang, Nawat Liangwattana, Nattapat Akhad, Thanachai Aurlucha, Thanop Amphawat, Thanee Sasom, Phattaraphong Noiphang, Sitthithat Chindarat, Suwanna Tallek, Anurak Jeantawanich, Nutchanon Pairoj, Atthapol Buaphat, Adisak Sombatkham, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Patiwat Saraiyaem, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Panupong Jadnok, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Chukiat Saengwong, and Chaiamorn Kaewwwiboonpan.
All of the defendants with the exception of Patiwat, requested to withdraw their legal representation and their lawyers requested to be released from their duties. The court has yet to rule on this request.
According to a statement from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the defendants have not been allowed to speak to their lawyers individually and confidentially, as they were always under the control of prison officials. The names of the lawyers and defendants who are part of each hearing are strictly checked.
Lawyers who would like to speak individually with the defendants have also been assaulted or had their telephones seized. Several defendants who are being detained pending trial and others who have been granted bail have not been allowed to discuss the case with each other.
There were also various measures to keep family members to meet the defendants and observers from observing the proceedings. The measure is strict and strange to the point Anon, who is also a human rights lawyer wrote a declaration to the court that the judicial process they are undertaking does not take human dignity into account.
“This case has involved the destruction of human dignity, the use of the law to silence people, and many other forms of injustice. As a person who has studied the law and who practices as a lawyer, and as one of the citizens who aim to reform the monarchy, the defendant cannot continue to participate in this process. The defendant whose name is at the end of this petition therefore requests to withdraw legal representation and refuses this process,” Anon wrote.
After the statement was made, the Criminal Court published a press release, saying that the measure in the courtroom was due to the chaos during the trial on 15 March 2021 when some defendants and observers disregarded the rules by reading a statement, throwing objects or taking a photo within the room, which is prohibited. Therefore, the measure at the next trial on 29 March had to be made strictly.
In addition, the spread of Covid-19 during 7-8 April resulted in the court limiting the number of the attendance in order to apply to the social distancing measure. This results in the court allowing only those who related to the case to attend, numbering almost 50 consisting of defendants, the lawyer team, prosecutors and embassy representatives. However, the court has provided a room for relatives and observers to see the trial process via teleconference.
Despite not going into details about the prison officials, the statement insists that the court has allowed relatives, people, embassy representatives and media to attend the trial. It also grants the defendants full rights to talk with the lawyers and relatives and they can inform the judges if any inconveniences were found.