A man who has been on hunger strike in front of the Criminal Court for the past three days to demand the release of detained activists has been arrested on charges under the lèse majesté law and the Computer Crimes Act.
Mongkhon Thirakot, 27, came from Chiang Rai on 12 April to join the hunger strike while sitting in front of the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road, Bangkok, to demand the release of activists currently detained pending trial and denied bail. He said that he felt it was unfair that the court has yet to issue a verdict on the activists’ case but has already detained them, so he wanted to demand their release so that they would have the chance to fight their case.
Mongkhon said that when he arrived at the Criminal Court at around 5.00 – 6.00 on 12 April, court officials came to place metal barriers in front of the Criminal Court sign and told him that his action might be considered contempt of court, so he went to sit just next to the sign. Several officers also came to ask for his personal information, as well as questioning him on whether he is involved with drugs, what his intentions are, and how long he intends to stay. They also asked to search his belongings. An officer also later told him that a ‘higher-up’ in the Court is unhappy and would like him to go away, but he insisted on staying where he was and told the officers that they could arrest him if he is doing anything wrong.
He also said that later that morning, a group of uniformed and plainclothes police officers from Phaholyothin Police Station, along with some officers dressed like a commando unit, arrived to question him for another hour. He said that police and court officers periodically came to ask him the same questions over and over. Some officers offered to buy him food and drink, and some offered to find him a place to stay so that he would leave the area in front of the court.
A large number of officers also returned the next day as a few people began to gather at the Criminal Court to support Mongkhon, along with members of the press who came to cover his hunger strike. Mongkhon said that both court police and officers from Phaholyothin Police Station were present in the area, and that 5 police trucks and a number of motorcycles were parked near where he was staying, which caused him concern.
Mongkhon said he went to ask the police why they had to bring so many officers and whether it was because there were reporters in the area. The officers told him that they were “keeping people safe.” He then told the officers that this is unnecessary, as they were treating his activity like a protest even though there were only three people and they were not doing anything but sitting there.
At 13.20 on 14 April, Mongkhon was arrested by police officers from Phaholyothin Police Station. The officers presented an arrest warrant from Phan Police Station in Chiang Rai, which stated that he was being charged under Section 112, or the lèse majesté law, and the Computer Crimes Act.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that, at 14.00, after he was taken to Phaholyothin Police Station to record his arrest, Mongkol was taken to Chiang Rai.
TLHR later reported that police officers from the Muang Chiang Rai Police Station went to search Mongkhon’s house this morning (14 April). The officers presented a search warrant to Mongkhon’s parents, but Mongkhon, who was also with the officers during the search, did not see the warrant and did not know whether anything was confiscated.