79 days, 74 alleged offenders, 11 freedom of assembly cases

The human rights situation under the rule of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) in 2018 continues to look bleak compared to previous years, even though the military junta declared “human rights” a national agenda on 21 November last year.

Since then, the NCPO has filed complaints against individuals who have simply exercised their right to freedom of assembly in at least 11 cases against 74 alleged offenders, or around one person a day, or one case a week. The prosecution of civilians demonstrates well the political situation under the military junta.

This report explores emerging cases since 21 November 2017 until 7 February 2018. Some are still going on and more people could be implicated. For example, the “MBK39” case could, according to the authorities, including Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the Deputy National Police Chief, see 66 more accused.

The first lèse majesté case of 2018 as a result of sharing the BBC’s profile of King Rama X

Late in 2016, Jatupat Boonpattaraksa aka “Phai Daodin” was pressed with a lèse majesté charge, an offence under Section 112 of the Penal Codem as a result of his sharing a profile of King Rama X featured on the BBC Thai language website. He was the only person to be held to account, whereas other people who have shared the posts and those who clicked “like” to the post have never been prosecuted.

Over a year later, on 28 January 2018 Ms. Chanoknan Ruamsap, aka ‘Cartoon’, an activist member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) announced that she had decided to go into exile since on 16 January she had received a summons from the Khan Na Yao Police Station to answer to charges relating to Section 112, in a similar manner with Phai. The case against Cartoon is at least the second of its kind (going by available reports) that a person is being held to account for sharing the profile of King Rama X.

In her personal facebook page, Cartoon recounted that a military officer “Sombat Tangtha” (unknown title) had brought the case against her since December 2016, and it got stuck at the police station due to some internal conflict. Anyway, as news broke out about her self-exile, the police came out to declare that they would coordinate with the Immigration Bureau and if she has really made a trip abroad, they would ask the Court to issue an arrest warrant against her (Click Here).

NCPO reporting more cases against Phua Thai’s spokesperson for violation of the Computer Crime Act

On 24 January 2018, Lieutenant Sunisa Lertpakawat, aka “Muad Jeab”, the former deputy spokesperson of the Phua Thai Party, went to answer to charges at the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) again. Maj. Burin Thongpraphai, as authorized by the NCPO, has brought a case against her as a result of her Facebook status and her fan page’s post, which criticized the corruption and public administration of the NCPO. It was the third case that has been brought against her with the TCSD.

This time, Lt Sunisa was accused of committing sedition per Section 116 of the Penal Code and also with bringing into a computer network false information that may compromise national security, an offence against Section 14(2) of the 2017 Computer Crime Act. In her press interview, Muad Jeab revealed that she now faces two cases, with altogether nine counts relating to 13 posts. Since she posted the same message twice, one in each of the two pages, it was counted twice. Prosecution by the NCPO against her started late last year.

Lawyer Anon, three cases in a row in less than one month

In less than one month, Anon Nampa, a public defender of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has found himself accused in three more cases. All of them have stemmed from his exercising freedom of expression, online and offline, since the coup. Lawyer Anon is now being grilled in at least nine cases.

The first case concerns contempt of court, an offence against Section 198 of the Penal Code, and Section 14(2) of the 2017 Computer Crime Act, as a result of his posting two Facebook messages to criticize the verdict of the Provincial Court of Khon Kaen on the case of student activists who had been tried for contempt as well. Lawyer Anon admits posting the two messages, but denies that he could be culpable as alleged (Click Here).

The second case has stemmed from Lawyer Anon being summoned as a result of his participating in a demonstration to protest against the attempt of the NCPO to prolong its grip on power and to demand elections. The incident took place on the Skywalk on Pathumwan Intersection on 27 January 2018. Initially, Lawyer Anon and other six individuals were summoned to answer charges concerning the violation of the Head of the NCPO Oder no. 3/2558’s Article 12, banning a political gathering of five persons and upward, and for sedition, an offence against Section 116 of the Penal Code. A few days later, it was reported that Lawyer Anon was one among the 39 suspects being summoned by the Pathumwan Police Station to answer to charges of organizing a public assembly within a 150 meters of a royal residence, an offence under Section 7 of the 2015 Public Assembly Act. But after 2 February, he received the second summonses covering all the three charges against him.

For the second case, Lawyer Anon announced on his personal Facebook that he would not comply with the justice process and would wait for the police to arrest him.

In the third case, Lawyer Anon just received the summonses (7 February) and was asked to answer charges at the TCSD on 9 February 2018. The case brought by Pol Lt Maj Supharat Kham-in alleges contempt of court, an offence under Section 198 of the Penal Code. No additional information is available now.

Ekkachai who kindly offered the General a watch, was slapped with a case relating to posting an obscene message and another case when he joined a demonstration toward the end of month

The Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for national security, Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan has been accused of having in his possession more than 20 luxurious wristwatches without having them declared to the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission as his assets. It has been claimed that he just borrowed them from his friend.

Mr. Ekkachai Hongkangwan, a freelance activist, has been seeking out Gen. Prawit in various places in order to hand him a wristwatch. The reason was that he did not want Gen. Prawit to have to keep borrowing such wristwatches from his friend anymore. He has had no success in handing over the wristwatch so far. Every time he was nabbed by security officers in those places and was prevented from doing so.

On 16 January 2018, four police officers went to his house to hand him a summons asking him to answer to charges at the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) concerning putting into a computer system any computer data which is obscene and that computer data may accessible by the public, an offence against Section 14 (4) of the Computer Crime Act. It was unclear as to which statement the authorities referred to as ‘obscene’ and was used as incriminating evidence to charge him since Ekkachai has yet to report himself to the authorities (Click Here).

Apart from this case, Ekkachai is also facing charges together with another 38 demonstrators who were gathered on the Pathumwan Skywalk. Three charges against him include violating the Head of the NCPO Oder no. 3/2558’s Article 12 banning a political gathering of five persons and upward, sedition per Section 116 and Section 7 of the 2015 Public Assembly Act, similar to Lawyer Anon.

Photo credit: Banrsdr Photo fanpage

TCSD pressing charges against an academic for violating Section 14 of Computer Crime Act after a social media post critical of the handbag carried by Gen’ Prayuth’s wife

After the wristwatch saga of Gen. Prawit, we have come to the handbag of Naraporn Chan-ocha, wife of Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha. A photo of her with her handbag had been widely circulated in social media and has been subject to speculation as to its price tag. It was later revealed, however, that the handbag was an OTOP product made in Thailand.

The saga did not end just there. On 17 January 2018, it was reported by Pol Col Olarn Sukkasem, Superintendent 3, TCSD, that has brought a case against Prof. Dr. Charnvit Kasetsiri, former President of Thammasat University, for an offence under Section 14(1) of the 2017 Computer Crime Act for putting into a computer system distorted or forged computer data, partially or entirely, or false computer data, in a manner that is likely to cause damage to the public, in which the perpetration is not a defamation offense under the Penal Code. The allegation stemmed from Charnvit’s sharing a Facebook post of “Ploy Siripong” on 11 January 2018 and giving his view on the handbag of Ms. Naraporn. He was then summoned to answer to the charges (Click Here).

Charnvit went to meet the police on 31 January and was pressed with charges for violation of the Computer Crime Act’s Section 14 (2) for putting into a computer system false computer data in a manner that is likely to cause a panic among the public. The prominent academic denied all charges (Click Here).


 

Despite Administrative Court’s injunction for the Solidarity Walk, eight members of the Network still facing charges

On 20 January 2018, the People Go Network launched its “We Walk for Solidarity Walk”. Its members are walking for 450 kilometers from Bangkok to Khon Kaen. It is part of a campaign to raise public awareness on four major issues, including health insurance, food security, community rights and an inclusive constitution that heeds to all opinions. On 19 January, a public discussion cum musical performance was held at Thammasat University, Rangsit Campus to urge people to sign their names to the petition to demand the rescinding of 35 Orders/Announcements made by the NCPO. On that day, Police Superintendent of the Klong Luang Police Station, as responsible officer in charge of public assembly in the jurisdiction, informed the organizers that the collection of signatures and sale of campaign t-shirts might violate the Head of the NCPO Oder no. 3/2558.

On 20 January, about 120 members of People Go started to walk from Puay Ungphakorn College, right around the exit of Thammasat University, though they were immediately blocked by around 200 police officers. The marchers were informed that their assembly could contravene the Head of the NCPO Oder no. 3/2558 and were asked to first obtain permission from the security authorities. But no representatives from the security authorities came to meet the demonstrators. As a result, some demonstrators decided to find their way out of the campus through other gates. They started walking again, this time, in groups of four persons. They were allowed to continue their walk while being videoed all the time by plainclothes officers.

On 21 January 2018, prior to the demonstrators embarking on Day Two of the walk, about 200 police officers raided the place where they were taking a rest at night, in Wat Lat Sai. The officers demanded to search and wanted to photocopy ID cards of all the demonstrators. The supplies car was stopped for a search and four people in the car were subject to questioning without a warrant being produced. They were not pressed with charges and their lawyers were prevented from being present during the questioning. They were then released at 10.30am.

The People Go Network found that the blockade of the university’s exit, surveillance including taking photos of the demonstrators, how the authorities approached the temple which offered accommodation to the demonstrators, and the search were all infringements on freedom of assembly. They filed a case with the Administrative Court asking for an injunction to allow the demonstration to continue. On 26 January, the Court ordered Commanders of Police Region 3 and 4 to facilitate the public assembly and not to stop or interfere with the walk until it will be completed on 17 February 2018.

Nevertheless, eight core members of the Network received summonses from the Klong Luang Police Station. On 31 January they decided to be there to answer to the charges including the violation of a ban against a political gathering of five persons and upward, under the Head of the NCPO Oder no. 3/2558’s Article 12. This charge allegedly stemmed from the sale of campaign t-shirts and the persuasion of people to sign a petition demanding the revocation of the NCPO Orders/Announcements, and a public speech at the entrance of Thammasat University. They are scheduled to go meet the inquiry officer who will bring them to the public prosecutor on 26 February (Click Here).

 

The case against those demanding elections who sang “Fortune/Prison Cookies Song” along with the MBK39 band

The promise to hold elections within this year has been made many a time, though the hope to have timely elections was dealt with a blow when Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha came out early this year to claim he had never promised to hold elections this year. He even claimed he wanted to stay in power longer to lay a good foundation for the country, but albeit also ambivalently admitted that the government’s popularity is in decline.

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has yet to pass organic laws on the House of Representatives and as a result, it is very likely the elections have to be postponed to 2019. Such failure to honor the word already given and the protracted delay of elections have upset people who looked forward to the normalization of the country and the installation of a civilian government in lieu of the military regime.

On the evening of 27 January 2018, the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) and Start Up People organized an activity “Stop delaying elections, Stop staying longer in power” with a public demonstration and speeches on the Pathumwan Skywalk in front of MBK Department Store. It was reported on that day that apart from not charging them with violence, the police had even allowed and asked the demonstrators to move from the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center toward the section of Pathumwan Skywalk closer to MBK Department Store (Click Here). The activity was allowed to go on until 20.00, and the next gathering was announced to take place on 10 February at the Democracy Monument.

A few days later, the police reportedly had summoned seven organizers of the assembly to answer to charges concerning the violation of the Head of the NCPO Oder no. 3/2558 and for sedition, an offence under the Penal Code’s Section 116 (Click Here). It was further reported that the police had summoned 39 suspects on charges of participating in a public assembly within 150 meters of a royal residence, an offence under Section 7 of the 2015 Public Assembly Act. The second batch of summons also covered seven suspects who had already received the first round of summons, meaning seven of them have to face two charges. In addition, the police claimed they were about to issue summons for 66 more people, though they have not done so until now (Click Here).

After news broke out, the individuals whose names appeared in the summons gradually turned themselves in on 2 February. The incident gave rise to the #MBK 39 hashtag, referring to the 39 suspects.

On 2 February, the 27 individuals who received the second batch of summons went to answer to the charges at the Pathumwan Police Station, and were informed by the inquiring officers that they would be brought to the Pathumwan Municipal Court for arraignment right away and could be remanded in custody. Not expecting to be remanded, the suspects had not arranged for their bail. They and another seven suspects thus asked the police to be able to return to answer to the charges on 8 February, though the inquiry official refused to allow them to postpone their answering to the charges. They threatened instead to issue the second summons to have them answer to the charges at the police station on 8 February (Click Here).

On the same day, Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, Deputy National Police Chief, told the press that the authorities would press one more charge relating to Section 116 (sedition) against Sombat Boonngamanong and Veera Somkwamkid, two of the 39 suspects. He claimed to have found the two persons making a public speech, too. (Click Here) It also turned out that when the second summons was issued to the 39 suspects, the police added the violation of the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2558’s Article 12 as an additional charge and they were asked to answer to the charges by 8 February.

In conclusion, in the MBK39 case, nine individuals have been pressed with three charges including violating the Head of the NCPO Oder no. 3/2558’s Article 12, participating in a public assembly within 150 meters of a royal residence, an offence against the 2015 Public Assembly Act and an offence against Section 116. Thirty of them have been pressed with two charges including violating the Head of the NCPO Oder no. 3/2558’s Article 12 and participating in a public assembly within 150 meters of a royal residence, an offence against the 2015 Public Assembly Act.

 

Demonstrators who showed support to Gen. Prawit also face two public assembly charges

While there have been people taking to the street to oppose the staying in power by the NCPO any longer, there have been groups of individuals who throw their support to the embattled Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan. About 40 of them were gathered at the entrance of the Ministry of Defence on 1 February 2018 holding banners to show their solidarity and to offer flower bouquets to an official at the Ministry of Defence. It turned out later that Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul ordered the police to press charges against them as well.

On 5 February 2018, Mr. Adul Thammachit, one of those assembled, who identified himself as a taxi driver, went to turn himself in at the Phra Racha Wang Police Station. He was then pressed with charges concerning the violation of the Head of the NCPO Oder no. 3/2558 and for participating in a public assembly within 150 meters of a royal residence, an offence under Section 7 of the 2015 Public Assembly Act. As he pleaded guilty, he was brought for arraignment at the Dusit Municipal Court. It was reported that he was convicted by the Court and was fined 6,000 baht, though it was reduced to 3,000 baht as a result of his guilty plea (Click Here).

On 6 February, five more demonstrators from Sra Kaew who were gathered in front of the Ministry of Defence answered charges at the Phra Racha Wang Police Station and were pressed with two charges, similar to above. (Click Here). In total, six individuals have been prosecuted while the police officers insisted on tracking down the remaining participants in the assembly to bring them to justice as well.

Photo credit: Facebook ‘Wassana Nanuam

“It’s Up to Pom” pantomime performers nabbed and fined

Activism in the past month centered on the wristwatch saga of Gen. Prawit. One activity kicked off by the Young People for Social-Democracy (YPD) on the afternoon of 2 February 2018, on the Victory Monument Skywalk, was the “It’s Up to Pom” pantomime, which depicted all the alleged corruption and scandals of Gen. Prawit. No public speeches were made. After the performance was completed, the four performers were brought by the police to the Phayathai Police Station (Click Here).

The four of them were later pressed with charges concerning the violation of Section 10 of the 2015 Public Assembly Act as they had failed to notify the authorities 24 hours prior to their assembly. It was reported that all of them were each fined 10,000 baht and were then released.

 

Military reporting case against villagers in Phayao who showed their solidarity with the We Walk marchers

Villagers and peasants of Ban Doi Thevada, Tambon Sobbong, Phusang District, Phayao and students from a university in Chiang Rai organized a short walk in the village, holding banners to show their solidarity with the “We Walk Solidarity Walk” on 5 February. In that afternoon, plainclothes police and uniformed military officers raided residences of participants in the walk who live in the community. In the evening, the Village Headman asked the participating villagers to report themselves to the police at the Phusang Police Station. Upon their arrival at the police station, the villagers encountered 20 uniformed military officers armed with shotguns waiting for them there (Click Here).

The villagers and the students were then asked for personal information by the inquiry officers and were asked about the meaning of the banners. Around midnight, the military reported the case against 15 villagers and students alleging they violated the Head of the NCPO Oder no. 3/2558 regarding a ban on political gatherings. One among the suspects was a 16-year-old youth with a mental disability. Then the inquiry official informed the 11 alleged offenders at the police station of the charges and subjected them to questioning until morning. They were brought for arraignment at the Chiang Kham Provincial Court later that morning and were bailed out after having to post 5,000 baht each as deposit. The youth with a mental disability was, however, not brought for arraignment (Click Here).