Hunger striker facing lèse majesté charge granted bail

Mongkhon Thirakot, who was arrested on Wednesday (14 April) on charges under the lèse majesté law and the Computer Crimes Act while on a hunger strike in front of the Criminal Court in Bangkok, has been granted bail after two days in detention.

Mongkhon Thirakot sitting at a bus stop near the Criminal Court on 12 April

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported earlier today (16 April) that Mongkhon was taken to the Chiang Rai Provincial Court for a temporary detention request. He was held in a police car and was not taken inside the court building, which the officers claimed was due to the Covid-19 situation.

In the afternoon, the Chiang Rai Provincial Court ruled to have Mongkhon temporarily detained during the investigation, as the charges he faces are severe. His lawyer then requested bail, which the court granted, requiring a security of 150,000 baht.

According to TLHR, Mongkhon is a local activist in Chiang Rai and an online clothing vendor. He came to Bangkok on 12 April to go on hunger strike while sitting in front of the Criminal Court in Bangkok to demand the release of activists currently detained pending trial and denied bail. He was arrested on 14 April by officers from Phaholyothin Police Station and taken to Chiang Rai.

Mongkhon has been held at the Muang Chiang Rai Police Station since he arrived in Chiang Rai following his arrest. Officers also searched his house and confiscated several pieces of paper with messages written on them, a declaration by the activist group Ratsadorn, an armband with the three-finger salute symbol, and a red ribbon, and had his mother sign documents to acknowledge the search and confiscation. It is not clear how the objects confiscated by the officers are related to the case. Mongkhon’s mobile phone was also confiscated when he was arrested in Bangkok.

According to the police, Mongkhon is being charged with royal defamation under Section 112 of the Criminal Code and with importing into a computer system data relating to an offence against national security under the Computer Crimes Act due to 25 Facebook posts he made between 2 – 11 March 2021, including messages referring to the King’s images, sharing video clips and foreign news reports about the Thai monarchy, and sharing posts from Somsak Jeamteerasakul’s Facebook page while adding captions. The inquiry officer said it is up to the public prosecutor how many counts Mongkhon will face.

According to TLHR, at least 86 people are facing charges under Section 112 in 79 cases since November 2020, at least 6 of whom are minors. TLHR also observed a rise in the number of people facing Section 112 charges due to their online activities, many of whom are ordinary members of the public who have had complaints filed against them by other citizens or royalist groups.

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