Defiant protesters on Sunday returned to confrontational tactics with police in Bangkok as they protested at the Criminal Court’s persistent refusal to grant bail to key Ratsadon leaders including both Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul who are currently on hunger strike while being held in prison. 

On Monday, the Office of the Judiciary issued a strong statement in which it called for the Royal Thai Police to investigate thoroughly events at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Sunday in which it claims attempts were made to coerce and undermine the course of justice in Thailand when a REDEM protest group caused criminal damage to the front of the courts and issued threats against court personnel and their families before becoming involved in a confrontation with police which led to four arrests. 

On Monday, the Metropolitan Police Bureau Commissioner Police Lieutenant General Pakkapong Pongpetra (centre right) issued a statement on Sunday’s protest outside the Criminal Court after the Office of the Judiciary called for a thorough investigation into the activity of protesters during which it is claimed saw court officials and their family threatened as a crowd demanded that the court grant bail and release key Ratsadon movement leaders being held in prison on criminal charges including those related to Article 112 and 116 of the Criminal Code for lèse-majesté and sedition relating to last year’s protest wave. These include Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak (left) who is currently on hunger strike in prison since March 16th last.

The Office of the Judiciary in Thailand, on Monday, called for a full police investigation into an aggressive protest outside the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Sunday night organised by the Restart Democracy (REDEM) movement which turned violent and led to clashes between protesters and riot police in which firecrackers and other sorts of explosive devices were thrown at police lines leading to panic and confusion.

The protest followed another rejection by the Criminal Court on Thursday of an application for bail on behalf of Ratsadon leaders who are being held without bail after being charged under Article 112 of the criminal code for lèse-majesté and Article 116 for sedition related to protests in 2020.

Metropolitan Police Bureau chief issued a statement after Sunday’s protest at the Criminal Court

On Monday, Police Lieutenant General Pakkapong Pongpetra, the Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner, formally commented on Sunday’s events.

He said the protest had begun with a march from Victory Monument to the court headquarters on Ratchadapisek Road where disturbances broke out.

The situation became more dangerous late in the evening when the protesters clashed with police forcing them to deploy tactical force.

He confirmed 4 people were arrested in the clashes and are facing charges including a violation of the Emergency Decree. He indicated they could later face further charges including counts relating to criminal damage.

He also clarified that some of those arrested had taken part in previous demonstrations and rallies which had also turned violent.

This sort of violent demonstration has not been seen since police arrested We Volunteer (WeVo) guard leader Piyarat Chongthep or ‘Toto’ in early March together with many of his associates. 

Two key Ratsadon or student protest leaders are on hunger strike while being held in prison without bail

Two of the leaders Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul are currently on hunger strike protesting the court’s refusal to grant them bail and are refusing to eat solid food. 

Concern has been expressed for the condition of Mr Parit or ‘Penguin’ whose hunger strike began on March 16th and who was moved to Ramathibodi Hospital on Friday after officials within the Corrections Department feared the inmate may enter a physical state of shock. 

Mr Parit or ‘Penguin’ is not thought to be in danger even after he was transferred to hospital

However, medical officials have assured the public that Mr Parit’s life is not in danger and that he would be returned to prison when his health improves. They made a similar pronouncement concerning the health of Ms Panusaya.

The medical state of Mr Parit has been the subject of wild online media speculation which prompted officials to confirm that his health was currently stable.

He is understood to have seen his weight drop from 107 kg to 94.5 kg and the move to the hospital coincided with the removal of a saline drip.

Mother of student leader stages personal protest

Last week, outside the Criminal Court, the mother of Mr Parit, Sureerat Chiwarak had her head shaved to show support for her son.

She also warned that Mr Parit’s health condition was serious: ‘Please be a witness to this. I am just a woman, a mother. My child has not committed a crime, he just thinks differently. He has not received justice, and he is now gravely ill.’

On Monday, the court service defended its administration of the law and pointed out, in a statement, that it welcomed the public’s right to express its views and opinions.

Court condemns violence, criminal damage and attempts to coerce and intimidate personnel linked to the courts and the administration of justice

At the same time, it condemned the violence and attempts to intimidate staff and personnel defending the court on Sunday which saw the lives of security officials put in danger by the actions of some of those who took part. 

It also referenced threats made by those involved against the lives of judges and their families.

The property of the court was vandalised and damaged by people who used violence, it pointed out. Officials warned that an attempt was being made to dictate how the law should be applied.

The statement by the court service said that to give in to such pressure would be to undermine the key principles of a fair and impartial judiciary and the independence of the legal system.

Call for a full police investigation

The court suggested those involved had been exerted by forces online to carry out the violence and destruction and what happened on Sunday night was not an exercise in the name of democracy or something lawful under the constitution.

The court called for a full police investigation into the violence including those involved and who was behind it. It urged that strict and vigorous legal action be taken against anyone implicated.

‘Our patience is running out. The war has just begun’ declared a protest leader on Sunday night

On Sunday night, the Restart Democracy activists sprayed red paint on signage in front of the building and threw other objects into the premises.

The crowd used the three-fingered pro-democracy salute now also used by protesters in Myanmar and made famous in last year’s Bangkok rallies and student-led street protests seeking the resignation of the government of Prayut Chan ocha, a new constitution and reform of the monarchy.

The protest leaders of the rally used loudspeakers to make their voice heard before later engaging with riot police leading to the breakup of the gathering.

‘Our patience is running out. The war has just begun,’ said one speaker to the assembled crowd.

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Further reading:

‘Penguin’ on hunger strike after chaotic court scenes in Bangkok demanding bail for protesters

Guards leader faces 7 years in jail after being charged with ‘illegal association’ and refused bail

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PM calls for understanding as senior police officer dies in violent Sunday night riots in Bangkok near his home

Protests, opposition against the jailing of activists under Article 112 grows as four leaders are held

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

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