The detentions this week ordered by the Criminal Court of four protest leaders and the ongoing prosecution of 40 young student activists has sparked rising concern about the use of Article 112 in this context by leading academics and last week, by United Nations officials.

There were protests on Friday outside Bangkok Remand Prison at the jailing of four protest leaders who were, earlier in the week, denied bail on Lèse-majesté charges under Article 112 of the Criminal Code. The incarceration of the four was also the subject of a strong letter to authorities from 126 academics including those working with four leading universities who have strongly criticised their detention and prosecution.

Protesters outside the Bangkok Remand Prison in Chatuchak on Friday as opposition mounts to the jailing of political prisoners under Article 112 with many more cases due before the courts. Among the leaders detained this week were key figures Arnon Nampa and Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak (top centre and right). The protest on Friday ended when Police Colonel Sumet Phuchana from a local police station ordered them to leave under the Emergency Decree dealing with the Covid-19 situation.

Pro-democracy student protesters staged a gathering outside Bangkok Remand Prison on Friday to protest at the continued incarceration of four members of the Ratsadon movement that has been to the fore of the kingdom’s ongoing student protest activity since July last year.

The four, Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak alias ‘Penguin’, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem, were taken into custody on February 9th when the Criminal Court refused them bail on two grounds.

One was they were very likely to re-offend and the other was given the serious nature of the jail terms faced by the defendants, they posed a flight risk.

65-year-old former civil servant jailed in January for 43 years for sharing an illegal YouTube video

The protest leaders had been arraigned before the court on charges of Lèse-majesté under Article 112 of the Criminal Code which cites any act which defames the Thai Royal family.

The application of the legal provision by the courts has seen a 65-year-old former government civil servant, Anchan Preelert, jailed for 43 years in January in a case that has caught the attention of global human rights agencies and the United Nations.

It is understood that Ms Anchan shared an illegal video produced by a critic of the establishment who was jailed for only five years as her offence, in sharing the material, was more serious, the court found.

Charges against the four protesters came on the orders of the Office of the Attorney-General

The charges against the four jailed this week were brought on the orders of the Office of the Attorney-General and refer to speeches given at a protest meeting at Thammasat University in September last year.

The government, in recent months, has signalled a tougher line with the use of Article 112 and also enforcement of the Emergency Decree given current fears concerning the Covid-19 outbreak in Bangkok.

Protesters gathered outside Bangkok Remand Prison

On Friday, the groups gathered outside the prison included the Nonthaburi New Generation Network, the Red Progressives and the Ratsadon group.

They shouted out repeatedly ‘Release our friends’, raise the three-fingered salute and taking a cue from protesters in Yangon and Mandalay in Myanmar this week, beat pots and pans.

Protests are back on the streets of Bangkok this week with official concerned about the Covid-19 threat

Protest activity has begun in Bangkok again this week with several people arrested and then later released. 

On Friday, over 100 police officers monitored the events outside the prison before 8 pm when Police Colonel Sumet Phuchana of Prachachuen Police Station told them to disperse as they were in breach of the Emergency Decree to protect the public against Covid 19.

Bangkok has become a potential new hotspot for the virus as the virulent outbreak in adjacent Samut Sakhon province comes under control amid continued fears of its progression into the city with several new clusters being detected.

Activists plan to continue their demonstration on Saturday and Sunday with events planned at Ratchadamnoen Avenue and Wat Saket.

The protesters have also vowed to protest outside the Bangkok Remand Prison every Friday until their colleagues are released.

Academics voice their opposition to the use of Article 112 against pro-democracy protesters

126 academics have issued a statement deeply critical of the continued jailing of the four protest leaders.

The letter, signed by officials and lecturers at Thammasat University, Chulalongkorn University, Chiang Mai University and Walailak University, said the four accused were pursuing their democratic rights in an open, transparent and non-violent manner.

‘We are of the strong opinion that a person’s right to bail is a crucial principle that the judicial institution which has legal, social and humanitarian duties and is the final beacon of hope for the people must uphold to support the basic rights and freedom of the people,’ they declared.

United Nations expresses its deep unease

This comes a week after human rights officials at the United Nations expressed unease following the jailing of the former civil servant, Ms Anchan, in January after her case had been left in abeyance for some time when the government refrained from using the draconian law. Her case has also been highlighted by Amnesty International.

The United Nations has also expressed its unease about the legal prosecution of over 40 student activists under the provision which could see them sent to jail for long prison terms.

‘We are profoundly disturbed by the reported rise in the number of lèse-majesté prosecutions since late 2020 and the harsher prison sentences,’ the UN team, comprising seven rapporteurs and other key officials, said in a statement.

Move Forward Party is trying to change the law

In the Thai parliament, there is a move underway by the opposition Move Forward Party led by MP Nattacha Boonchaiinsawat, to have the law changed to make it less wide-ranging and punitive. 

In recent days, despite the opposition of nine MPs even within the more progressive party’s ranks to the move, Mr Nattacha said he believed the amendment already enjoyed enough support for him to move forward with it.

However, it is sure to be opposed by the government benches as the Thai public has consistently shown opposition to any political actions that attempt to draw the monarchy into politics and Article 112 is seen as a bulwark against this.

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

Pro-democracy protests resume in Bangkok with 4 protest leaders jailed after being refused bail in court

Escalating danger and violence on the streets as protests turn uglier with 3 demands still pursued by activists

Small bomb devices explode outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok as anti-coup protests grow in Yangon

Shock poll shows the Thai public is suspicious of third parties behind the kingdom’s current political unrest

King tells western TV crews that he loves all Thai people and the kingdom is the land of compromise

Protest leader blacked out after illegal attempt to rearrest him on Friday night in Bangkok failed after fracas

Protest leader tells Prayut his term as PM is over as thousands again take to the Bangkok streets against him

Strength of support for the monarchy being seen this week as political unrest deepens into standoff

PM says he is not resigning but seeks resolution as key protest leader, Anon, chooses to stay in prison

Top minister accuses protesters of imperiling economic recovery and the health of Thai people at this time

Large protest turnout in Bangkok on Wednesday pushed for the PM to go with a 3-day ultimatum

Prime Minister’s position has been weakened by protests as progressive leader says he must go to allow talks

Protests on the streets creating political tensions as PM warns the public only the country will lose

Press conference given by activist and Progressive Movement leader checked by abrupt police visit

Rally’s march on Government House surprises officials with a larger turnout and police in retreat

Police arrest 21 protesters in Bangkok attempting to block the road to be used for planned Royal motorcade

Smaller crowd expected at rally on Wednesday as police gear up security cordon with checkpoints

Police say students have no permission to protest as army chief warns that security will be upheld

New army chief takes the helm this week amid growing tensions and rising public apathy toward politics

Criminal charges likely against student leaders as mysterious ‘People’s Party’ plaque goes missing

Students submit a reform petition to the Privy Council, call for a General Strike in Thailand on October 14th

March on government to go ahead on Sunday as rally organisers appear to focus on the monarchy reform plans

Western foreigners being blamed by ultra-right for this latest wave of radical student protests

Raised concerns for the defiant student protest being planned for next Saturday and Sunday

Exasperated PM loses patience with press corps over ‘distorted’ online speculation of a coup amid tensions

Army chief denies and rejects rumours of a likely coup as the country faces crisis on key fronts

Shock resignation of Minister of Finance a sign of more politics being demanded in government

Thailand stuck in a ‘vicious cycle’ which will lead to further military coups says leading academic

New ministers take the reins in a formal audience with King Rama X & Queen Suthida at Dusit Palace

New cabinet lineup in Royal Gazette but economic damage now extending into parts of the property market

Warning signs in new banking and employment reports as virus crisis hits Thailand’s bottom line hard

Thailand may have to live with the virus but can recover in two years says outgoing central bank chief

June export figures show a 23% decline on last year but the economy will recover by end of 2021

Prime Minister indicates that the cabinet reshuffle will be complete very shortly with no problem

Somkid ready to bow out of government as September cabinet reshuffle seems to be on the cards