Gender equality activists charged with violating Emergency Decree for joining ‘car mob’ protest

Two young activists from the gender equality activist group Feminist’s Liberation Front Thailand went to hear the charges against them at the Thong Lo Police Station on Monday (6 September), where the police attempted to take DNA samples and took them to court in a detention truck.

Feminist's Liberation Front Thailand joining the 10 August 2021 'car mob' protest on a truck decorated with several Pride flags

Paeng, 16, and Ton-or, 17, have been charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for joining the 10 August 2021 “car mob” protest organized by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD).  During the protest, the caravan stopped in front of the Sino-Thai Tower, which houses a construction company where Anutin Charnvirakul, the Public Health Minister, is the 4th biggest shareholder. Student activist Benja Apan read out a declaration, stating that the government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic has caused the people irreparable harm, and that this situation has its roots in the 2014 military coup, which led to a regime that so far has only benefited the elite.

The Feminist’s Liberation Front, which joined the protest on another truck, placed Japanese-style rain dolls in front of the Sino-Thai Tower and spray-painted the dolls.

Paeng and Ton-or went to Thong Lo Police Station at 10.00 on Monday (6 September) to hear the charges, along with 3 other activists. Paeng said that the process was moving much slower than the last time she had to report to a police station, and they did not leave the police station until almost 16.00.

Ton-or said that the police claimed that they have never handled a political case, and did not know what to do. She also said that the officers prohibited them from taking pictures during the process, even though officers at other police stations allowed them to do so and she was only taking pictures of the documents, not the officers. She asked which law she was violating by taking pictures, and the officers could not tell her.

Ton-or also said that the officers attempted to collect DNA samples from them. She said that one of the other activists sent a message to the rest of the group that the officers tried to get them to sign a consent form to have DNA samples taken. They were not told that this would be happening, and that officers just gave them the document to sign But they felt suspicious and asked the rest of the group whether this is appropriate. The activists then declined to have their DNA samples taken.

During Ton-or’s meeting with the officer, she was also given the consent form but refused to sign it. She said that she asked the officers whether this has to be done, and that she did not consent to having a sample taken. The officer accepted her refusal.

“It doesn’t follow international principles. It made me felt like I was a criminal, even though usually all you need to do is give your fingerprints,” Ton-or said.

Paeng and Ton-or were taken to court in a detention truck

After meeting the inquiry officer, the adult activists were released, but Paeng and Ton-or, who are both minors, were taken to the Central Juvenile and Family Court for a temporary detention request.

However, the police forced them to ride a detention truck to court, which both found unacceptable.

Paeng, for whom this is the second charge of violating the Emergency Decree, said that the last time she was taken to court, the police allowed her to travel by herself.

“In my heart, I was very angry, because why did they suddenly force us to take a detention truck. Usually, any car is fine. They even let you go with your parents. Suddenly, they are getting me to take a detention truck. I wasn’t okay with it and felt bad,” Paeng said.

Meanwhile, Ton-or, who is now facing 4 Emergency Decree charges, said that she initially refused to get into the detention truck and was trying to negotiate with her lawyer and the officer. She said that officers at other police stations allowed her to travel with her parents and to meet them at the court, but the Thong Lo police wouldn’t accept her refusal and tried to coerce her into the detention truck.

She said that they did not leave the police station until 15.30, half an hour before the court closes, causing her to become concerned that she would be detained if they could not file a bail request in time.

“I was made to feel like I was a convict, even though I haven’t gone to trial and found guilty. It caused me to feel uncomfortable and uneasy. As a minor, I felt that I was unsafe and that I was not being protected,” she said.

Ton-or said that, during her last hearing, the judge granted her bail but told her that she would not be granted bail if she committed another offense. The judge also shouted at her father, asking him whether he is capable of taking care of his daughter and why he let her repeatedly commit offenses.

She said that the same judge also oversaw her Monday hearing. She was granted bail with 15,000 baht as security, but the judge told her again that she would not be granted bail next time. The judge also spoke to her father and told him to take good care of his daughter and that next time she will not be granted bail.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that several other activists also went to hear charges relating to recent protests on the same day. Student activist Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon went to Pathumwan Police Station to hear charges relating to the 3 August 2021 Harry Potter-themed protest in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. She was charged with violating the Emergency Decree and using a sound amplifier without permission.

20 other activists and protesters were also charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for joining the 3 August protest, while human rights lawyer and activist Anon Nampa was charged with royal defamation under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. He is now being detained pending trial.

A 16-year-old protester has also been charged with violating the Emergency Decree and the Cleanliness Act, obstructing traffic, using a sound amplifier without permission, joining an assembly of more than 10 people and causing a breach of public peace, and not dispersing after receiving an official’s order.

The charges are in relation to the 16 August 2021 protest march from the Victory Monument to Government House, organized by the activist group Thalufah, which was blocked by crowd control police.

He was taken to the Central Juvenile and Family Court for a detention request, but was later granted bail without security. He must also report to the juvenile detention centre for questioning on 13 September 2021.

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