Student activist granted bail to take exams

Student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul has been granted bail to allow her to complete class projects and take her final examinations, after spending 17 days in detention.

Panusaya leaving the Central Women's Correctional Institution (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Panusaya was previously detained pending trial on royal defamation charges relating to 4 protests in 2020. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that, on Tuesday (30 November), the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court granted her bail on charges relating to the 19 - 20 September 2020 protest and the 2 December 2020 protest at the Lat Phrao Intersection.

TLHR reported that, during her bail hearing, Panusaya told the court that she is still enrolled at the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University, and is required to complete class projects and take her final examinations between 2 – 17 December 2021. She also said that in the next semester, she will have to complete an independent research project in order to graduate, and will be required to re-take the class if she is unable to complete the project.

Boonlert Wisetpreecha, lecturer at the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University, also spoke as witness during the hearing. He said that Panusaya is enrolled in one of his classes, and that he required his students to complete a report by 25 December 2021. The final exam for the class is also scheduled on 14 December 2021. He also said that lecturers can extend their deadlines only to 12 January 2022, when they will be required to submit their students’ grades to the university.

He also said that 4th-year students are required to complete an independent research project in their final semester. He explained to the Court that the project is similar to a Master’s degree thesis but on a smaller scale and will take the entire semester to complete. Students who do not pass the class will not be allowed to graduate. Boonlert told the court that he is happy to make sure that Panusaya follow the court’s condition.

Panusaya’s father also said during the hearing that the family is willing to make sure Panusaya follow the court’s conditions if she is released, and that she has not given speeches about the monarchy since she was released earlier this year, but has attended protests on other issues, such as campaigns for equality and LGBTQ rights. He also said that Panusaya has to take care of her cats and hamsters.

The Criminal Court then granted Panusaya bail on the grounds that her education has been damaged by her detention, and set the conditions that she must not leave her residence without court permission unless for a medical emergency, to go to classes or take exams, or to contact the courts.

She is also prohibited from participating in activities that are damaging to the monarchy or cause public disorder and from leaving the country. She must also wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

The Criminal Court's temporary release order is also only valid until 12 January, coinciding with the final exam period at Thammasat University.

The Court appointed Boonlert as Panusaya’s supervisor. While the court did not require a security, there will be a fine of 90,000 baht if Panusaya breaks her bail conditions.

Today (1 December), the South Bangkok Criminal Court granted her bail on charges relating to the 20 December 2020 crop top protest at Siam Paragon, while the Ayutthaya Provincial Court granted her bail on charges relating to the 21 August 2020 protest in Ayutthaya. Both courts also set her the same conditions as the Criminal Court.

Panusaya was released this evening from the Central Women’s Correctional Institution, where she has been detained since 15 November 2021.

Benja Apan

Five other activities are still detained pending trial on royal defamation charges: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Benja Apan.

Parit and Benja are both students at Thammasat University. A message from Benja was posted on her Facebook profile earlier today saying that she has taken leave of absence for the current semester, after being detained since 8 October 2021 and repeatedly denied bail.

Benja, a student at the Sirindhorn International Institute of Technology, said that she has not received support from her lecturers, and did not expect to receive assistance after she was detained. She also said that it is difficult to study inside prison as she is an engineering student and has no one to help her if she has problems with calculations. She also said that she decided to take a leave of absence because she would like to get good enough grades to be able to study at the postgraduate level.

Nevertheless, Benja said that she still wants to continue her education and that she wants to continue her study in aerospace engineering, but that she wants to study when she is ready and decided to take leave so that her detention will not affect her grades.

“But let me go,” Benja wrote. “I still have to study. I have more use than to just be held in the prison. Have you not destroyed my future enough?”

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