Student activist denied bail for crop top protest

Student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul has been denied bail on a royal defamation charge relating to a protest on 20 December 2020, in which activists wore crop tops at Siam Paragon shopping mall to campaign for the repeal of the royal defamation law.

Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported on Monday (15 November) that Panusaya went to testify to the South Bangkok Criminal Court on the case, along with 4 other activists who were charged in the same case: Benja Apan, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, and Phawat Hiranphon. Two other activists were also charged, but since they are minors, their case is being heard separately.

The activists were charged with royal defamation under Section 112, after they walked around Siam Paragon in crop tops to campaign for the repeal of the royal defamation law and to make a statement that it is not illegal to wear a crop top, after a 16-year-old protester was charged with royal defamation for wearing a crop top to a protest and writing the message “My father’s name is Mana, not Vajiralongkorn” on his back.

Parit also wrote the message “Repeal Section 112” and “Reform the monarchy” on his arms, as well as “My mother doesn’t cheat” on his waist. Panusaya wrote “I only have one father” on her stomach. Benja wrote “My father’s name is not…” and “Are you insane?” on her stomach and waist, and walked behind Parit and Panusaya while carrying a handbag on a golden tray with pedestal.

Meanwhile, Phawat walked around with the group, bowing, saying 'Long live the King', and presenting flowers to Parit and Panusaya. 

The public prosecutor claimed that their action mocked the King and that they intended to damage the King’s reputation and to cause people to lose their respect for him.

The complaint against them was filed by Acting Sub Lt Narin Sakcharoenchaikun, a member of the royalist group Thai Pakdee, which also filed a similar charge against Anon Nampa for his Facebook post of a letter to the King.

The activists wore crop tops and walked around Siam Paragon to campaign for the repeal of Section 112

TLHR said that the 5 activists denied all charges, and noted that observers from the Embassies of Finland and Luxembourg were also present in the courtroom. The court then scheduled 2 more hearings on 26 November 2021 and 24 January 2022.

Since Panusaya was not brought to court when the public prosecutor indicted her on 29 June 2020, she has to file a bail request using a 200,000-baht security, which is covered by the Will of the People Fund, a bail fund for people facing charges for political expression.

However, the court denied her bail on the grounds that she has committed similar offenses, and is likely to repeat her offense if released. The order was signed by judge Santi Chukitsappaisan, Research Justice of the Supreme Court, temporarily acting as the Deputy Chief Justice of the South Bangkok Criminal Court.

Panusaya is detained at the Central Women Correctional Institution. This is the second time this year that she has been detained pending trial on a charge relating to pro-democracy protests, after she was previously detained for 60 days on charges relating to the 19 – 20 September 2020 protest before being released on 6 May 2021.

According to TLHR, 25 people are detained pending trial on charges relating to their participation in pro-democracy protests, 6 of them on royal defamation charges: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, Benja Apan, and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

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