Protest caravan condemns a judge for denying bail

A protest organized by the REDEM group marched over 10 km from the Victory Monument to Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court, to publicize details of the background of family members of Chanathip Muanpawong, judge and Deputy Chief Justice of the Criminal Court, who has been responsible for denying the bail requests for many pro-democracy protesters.

A monk flashes a 3-finger salute as the caravan heads out from the Victory Monument.

The protest took place after further rejections by the court of applications for bail for Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Anon Nampa, Chukiat Sangwong, and Parinya Cheewinkulpatom, who are detained pending trial on royal defamation charges under Section 112 on 29 April.

In Parit's case, his mother, Sureerat submitted a bail request for the 10th time only to have it rejected. She protested against the ruling by shaving her head on 30th April.

The protest gathered at the Victory Monument at around 15.00 where information about judge Chanathip Muanpawong and his family was played from speaker trucks. Chanathip has repeatedly ruled to deny bail for pro-democracy activists. 

He was also the judge who sentenced Ampon Tangnoppakul, or “Uncle SMS,” to 20 years in prison on a royal defamation charge under Section 112 in 2011, after Ampon was accused of sending messages to Somkiat Krongwattanasuk, who was at the time the secretary of then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, which were deemed offensive to the King and Queen. Ampon died in prison in May 2012. 

Private details about the judge were published on social media after the bail rejection on 29 April. Netizens have been quarrelling back and forth about propriety of this action. One side claims it amounts to a witch hunt, which is unacceptable. The other side argues that the judge has to pay the price for abusing the rule of law by ignoring the principle of presumption of innocence.

Hunger strike

The protesters arrived at the court at around 17.00 where there were a couple of hundred protesters waiting for their arrival and 1 company of crowd control police deployed inside the court premises. Razor wire had been deployed behind the perimeter wall.

Labour rights activist Patchanee Khamnak announced at 16.10 in front of the Criminal Court, that she will be going on a hunger strike to demand the right to bail for activists currently detained pending trial on royal defamation charges.

Patchanee Khamnak

Patchanee said that it is a common understanding that when a person is facing legal prosecution, they have the right to be granted bail to fight their case, but in political cases, the court has overstepped social and legal norms and denied bail for pro-democracy activists facing royal defamation charges, while the police and the military have violated the freedom of those who speak out against the authorities since the military coups in 2006 and 2014. 

"In going on this hunger strike, I hope that the court grants bail to every accused person immediately and without condition, before the judicial system falls apart. It is a historical fact that the system no longer upholds the truth and humanity.

“I also want to send encouragement to Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, a leader of the People's Party, who is brave and steadfast in her fight for freedom and democracy and has been on a hunger strike for 30 days, and Parit Chiwarak, who has been on a hunger strike until his health is compromised. They are this country's future but are being bullied by the Thai judicial system to the point of losing their humanity and are almost losing their wellbeing.

“We are going to fight together for our fundamental freedoms, so that the truth will become apparent to the world," said Patchanee. 

Lertsak Kumkongsak from the People Go Network has been on a hunger strike in front of the Criminal Court for 7 days so far. 

Lertsak Kumkongsak

Lertsak said that he came to Bangkok on 26 April to go on a hunger strike in solidarity with activists currently detained pending trial, who themselves are on a hunger strike to demand their right to bail. He is currently only taking water, electrolyte drinks, and protein powder. 

"I felt that what [the activists] are doing inside is hardly reported, because the information is blocked, so I want to go on a hunger strike outside to connect and send a message about their struggle, and I hope to be part of the preservation of the movement which is facing difficulty during the spread of Covid-19," said Lertsak. 

Lertsak said that during his stay in front of the Criminal Court, police officers have been monitoring him and notifying him that he might be violating the Emergency Decree, the Cleanliness Act, and the Public Assembly Act. However, he said that the police cannot harass or remove him, because he has already filed a request with the police for permission to organise the activity.

At around 17.30, eggs and tomatoes were handed out to protesters, and an announcement said that they can "do whatever with them." Almost all of them ended up being thrown at the Court sign and inside the Court grounds. The Court sign was also spray-painted. Pictures of Chanatip were displayed there as well. Smoke was then seen in the area, but our field reporters did not report feeling any irritant. 

At 17.45, the police ordered reporters to record the protesters' actions, and ordered everyone to leave the area or face arrest.

At 17.50, protesters shouted together: "Release political prisoners!" before the end of the protest was announced 5 minutes later.

A protester splashes red paint on the Court sign.

An announcement from a speaker truck asked protesters to go home, and said that judge Chanathip should know that they would not be stopping here and all political prisoners must be released. 

Clash after the protest

Some protesters lingered in the area after the end of the protest was announced. Many were seen throwing garbage and bottles into the Court grounds. An explosion was heard and protesters tried to find the thrower.

A clash began at around 19.28 when crowd control police prepared to disperse protesters who had yet to leave the area in front of the Criminal Court, while protesters threw firecrackers. 

At 19.35, iLaw reported that the police ordered reporters to have their press ID or citizen ID to hand, while officers were ordered to form a line to block people from leaving the area. Crowd control officers also ran into Ratchada Soi 32, opposite to the court, after about 30 protesters gathered there threw fireworks at a group of officers.

There were also reports that 1 protester by the name of Khunaphat was arrested at around 19.45. He had been seen selling second-hand shirts at the protest. He was reportedly arrested while drinking beer in front of a 7-11 store. His whereabouts are not yet known.

At 19.55 a unit of crowd control police blocked Ratchada Soi 32, where around 30 protesters had gathered around 40 metres away from the police lines. A water cannon was fired at the group. 

iLaw reported that a protester was shot in the elbow by a rubber bullet. Objects were then burned and car headlights were turned off to obscure the police’s vision. The police announced that the protesters were violating criminal law and must cease their actions immediately.

The situation developed into a cat and mouse chase with protesters repeatedly evading the crowd control police blockade. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that the protesters managed to sneaked behind the police blockade, smashing the police vehicles and fled.

According to the Nation's Facebook live stream, Protesters surrounded a police car but the Nation’s reporter and some protesters successfully prevented an escalation of the conflict.

The night ended with 4 people being arrested. Khunaphat was charged with violating the Emergency Decree and granted bail while the rest were additionally charged with charges for assaulting the authorities, criminal mischief and causing public disorder.

Among the three, only one were allowed bail by the Juvenile court. The other two were denied bail by Criminal Court, given the reason that the pair would possibly flee.

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