Student activist denied bail for a third time

Student activist Benja Apan has been denied bail for a third time yesterday (21 October), after she was arrested on 7 October 2021 on a lèse majesté charge in connection with the 10 August 2021 protest.

Benja Apan speaking at a protest on 3 September 2021 at the Ratchaprasong Intersection

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that Benja’s lawyer went to file another bail request for her yesterday morning (21 October), with politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit as her bail guarantor, using 200,000 baht as security.

However, the South Bangkok Criminal Court ruled to deny bail for Benja on the grounds that there is no reason to change previous court orders. According to TLHR, the order was signed by Deputy Chief Justice Manas Phakphuwadol.

Benja was arrested on 7 October 2021 after she went to meet the inquiry officer at Lumpini Police Station to hear a charge of violating the Emergency Decree for participating in the 3 September protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection. The police then found that there was an outstanding arrest warrant issued against her on a royal defamation charge under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, as well as charges for violations of the Emergency Decree and the Communicable Diseases Act, for participating in the 10 August 2021 protest. However, she did not receive a summons before being arrested.

During the protest, Benja read out the second United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration Declaration, stating that the 2014 coup led by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has led to a regime which benefited only the elite. The statement also criticised the government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic and called for the government to properly handle the pandemic, revitalise the economy, repeal the 2017 Constitution which allows the junta government to prolong its stay in power, push forward reforms in state structures and the monarchy, and also return to the people their dignity.

Benja was taken to court on 8 October, and was later denied bail. Her lawyer filed another bail request with the Appeal Court, which was also denied on the grounds that the charges carry severe penalties and that Benja had violated her previous bail conditions.

The lawyer also requested bail for Benja on charges relating to the  protest in front of the German Embassy in Bangkok on 26 October 2020, which was denied on the grounds that Benja violated her previous bail conditions, which required her not to participate in activities which cause damage to the monarchy, and is currently facing other counts of the same charges. The court therefore believed that she would repeat her offense if released.

According to TLHR, at least 1,458 people are now facing charges for participating in pro-democracy protests between July 2020 and September 2021. Of this number, at least 145 people are facing royal defamation charges under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. At least 111 people are facing sedition charges under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code, while at least 1,171 people are facing charges for violating the Emergency Decree.

TLHR also said that, as of 14 October, 23 people are currently in detention for participating in protests: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Anon Nampa, Huad, Thawee Thiangwiset, Chitipat, Chakri, Panupong Jadnok, Nat, Nawapol Tonngam, Wachirawit Limthanawong, Pawaris Yaemying, Paitoon, Suksan, Naruebet, Pichai, Jittakorn, Tha, Sith, Thu, Benja Apan, Kachen, and Kajornsak. 

Of this number, five people are being detained on royal defamation charges: Parit, Jatupat, Anon, Panupong, and Benja.

In protest of the denial of bail for Anon and Benja, Joseph (pseudonym), one of the protesters facing charges for reading a statement in front of the German Embassy on 26 October 2021, wore a shirt with pictures of Anon and Benja to attend an evidence examination hearing on 11 October 2021. He also cut his arm in front of the judge as an act of protest.

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