On 22 November, 9 activists were found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to 10 days in jail by the Thanyaburi Provincial Court according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR). 3 of the activists are already in jail pending trial on other charges.
The activists in the detention room at the Thanyuburi Provincial Court on 9 August 2021.
The nine are Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, Sam Samat, Thanapat Kapeng, Panadda Sirimaskul, Thatchapong or Chatchai Kaedam, Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Sirichai Natueng and Nutchanon Pairoj.
Parit, Panupong and Sam have already been detained pending trial on other charges.
Initially, the verdict stipulated that the nine receive a 20-day jail sentence. This was reduced to 10 days at the Pathum Thani Central Detention Center after defence attorneys pointed out that the defendants were students who admitted their crime and had earlier been jailed for the same offence.
The court also granted bail for the six individuals not yet in prison. They were released after putting up 10,000 baht securities per person. Parit, Panupong and Sam will be transferred from Bangkok Remand Prison to Pathum Thani Central Detention Center to serve their 10 day sentences.
At their arraignment, the Thanyaburi Court approved their temporary detention, denying them bail on the grounds that they acted in violation of the law without regard for public safety, peace, and order during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Reports indicate that the activists resisted getting into the detention van and had to forced into the vehicle by police officers. Police officers were reportedly took pictures of their family members.
According to a Voice TV report, Parit may have been assaulted while being forced into the detention van as he was heard shouting "I can't breathe" and "help me." Another unidentified voice in the van called out "people's revolution.”
Sections 30-33 of the Civil Procedure Code defines “contempt of court” as refusal to comply with a court order. The offence can also include the publication or public expression of information that causes disorder in a trial, misleads the public about a trial or encourages people to give false evidence or testimony. Punishments range from expulsion from court proceedings, to a fine of no more than 500 baht or jail sentence of no more than 6 months.
TLHR reports that contempt of court provisions have been used more frequently in 2021, after a sudden surge of pro-democracy protests calling for political and monarchy reform. Since July 2020, 24 people have been charged with the provisions in 4 cases.
In comparison, only 9 contempt of court cases involving 20 people were reported in the 5 year period between February 2014 to August 2018.