20 protesters charged with violation of Emergency Decree at marriage equality rally

20 protesters and activists have been charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for participating in the 28 November 2021 rally at the Ratchaprasong intersection to call for marriage equality.

Activists and protesters facing charges reporting to Lumpini Police Station

In addition to the Emergency Decree charge, they were also charged with obstructing traffic under Section 385 of the Criminal Code.

12 of those charged reported to the police at Lumpini Police Station on Tuesday (21 December). Before going to hear their charges, the activists read out a statement by the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality saying that the rally was an exercise of their legal rights and freedoms, and that the charges against them amount to a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or SLAPP.

The statement said that the activists are reporting to the police and are willing to fight the charges to show that they are free to think and are protected by the civil rights enshrined in the Constitution. They are also considering filing complaints against the officers who file charges against them.

Nateepat Kulsetthasith

Move Forward party (MFP) MP Nateepat Kulsetthasith gave a speech at the rally and is among those summoned to hear their charges. However, under Section 125 of the Constitution, MPs and senators cannot be arrested, detained, or summoned by the police on a criminal charge while parliament is in session unless permission has been granted by the House Speaker.

Nateepat said that he is referring the issue to the relevant standing committees in parliament for an investigation and to summon responsible officers to explain why they issued the summons without regard to the law, commenting that he does not know if the summons was issued because the officers were careless or unaware of the law, or whether it was intentional.

Nada Chaiyajit, LGBTQ rights activist, Manushya Foundation’s campaign advisor and a member of the Thai Sang Thai party’s working group on LGBTQ rights, is also among those charged. Nada said that the rally was an exercise of their constitutional rights, and the organisers asked police officers from Lumpini Police Station to help facilitate the rally, but instead they filed charges against the organizers, speakers, and even participants, which she sees as a violation of the people’s rights and freedoms. 

Chanan Yodhong

Meanwhile, Chanan Yodhong, who is currently responsible for Pheu Thai party’s LGBTQ rights policy and is charged for giving a speech at the protest, said that the charges against them are an attempt by the state to limit the movement for human rights, and that it is clear that the state not only denies that every citizen is equal regardless of their identity but also sees that demanding marriage equality is a danger to national security.

Chanan said that such an attitude is dangerous for the state itself, because it erodes the state’s honour and is dangerous to the people, since the state sees the people as an enemy instead of those who hold power in the country and tries to silence them.

“Actually in the world, the pandemic is the new threat to national security that states have to be aware of, but the Thai state instead is using the pandemic as a tool to build security. You can see it from how they use the pandemic to obstruct popular political activities, including movement about identity and diversity,” Chanan said. “The state is stuck in old ideas about security, which see diversity, freedom, and rights as threats that needs to be suppressed. I want to support the organisers and every activist who is still fighting for what is right in a state like this.”

The rally was organized by the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality, a network of around 40 civil society organizations and activist groups, during which a petition proposing amendments to the Civil Commercial Code to allow marriage between LGBTQ couples was launched.

The petition proposes to amend Article 1448 of the Civil Commercial Code, which governs marriage, so that marriage registration is allowed between two people of any gender, instead of only between a man and a woman. It also proposed to raise the age at which people can legally marry from 17 to 18 years old.

The petition also proposes to replace the terms “man” and “woman” in every article of the Civil and Commercial Code relating to marriage with “person,” as well as to replace “husband” and “wife” with “spouse” and “father” and “mother” with “parents.”

The amendments will grant LGBTQ couples the same rights, duties, and legal recognition as heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt a child together and be recognized as the child’s parents, the right to have the power of attorney to make medical decisions of behalf of one’s partner and to press charges on behalf of one’s partner, the right to use one’s partner’s last name, and the right to inherit property from each other without the need for a will.

The petition, which gained over 100,000 overnight, now has over 270,000 signatures.

Currently, two bills on marriage for LGBTQ couples are already waiting to go before parliament, one of which is a bill proposing amendments to the sections on marriage and family in the Civil and Commercial Code proposed by MFP MP Tunyawat Kamolwongwat. Nateepat said that they are aiming for the bill to go before parliament before the end of the session early next year, but it will depend on every MP whether they are able to follow the agenda, but if the bill does not go before parliament before the end of this session, he is sure it will in the next session.

Nateepat said that it is possible for the bill to pass its first reading, as there are other parties who agree with it, such as the Pheu Thai party, and if the government parties allow their MPs to vote freely, the bill is likely to gain enough votes.

Nada Chaiyajit

Meanwhile, Nada said that she thinks it is unlikely that the government parties will allow a free vote for their MPs, since they have never allowed a free vote on a bill proposed by the opposition.

Nada also said that the Constitutional Court’s 17 November 2021 ruling that the current Thai marriage law, which states that marriage can only be contracted between a man and a woman, does not violate the Constitution is likely to push parliament in the direction of drafting a Civil Partnership bill to legalise LGBTQ marriage.

Nada believes that it will be more likely for a bill amending the Civil and Commercial Code to pass if the current opposition parties become the government in the next election, since each party, especially those in the opposition, has already seen that they will be judged by the people if they do not do what they propose to do during their election campaign.

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