[Media Lines] Thailand: FORUM-ASIA applauds the dismissal of charges against Thai activists
3 July 2023 12:53 pm
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) welcomes the acquittal of Thai pro-democracy human rights defenders Ekachai Hongkangwan, Boonkueanun Paothong, Suranat Paenprasert and two others, including a minor, of blocking traffic during pro-democracy demonstrations in 2020.
The case dates back to 14 October 2020, concerning a rally in Bangkok calling for democratic reforms, including ones about the country’s monarchy. In the rally, pro-democracy protesters allegedly confronted a motorcade carrying members of the royal family.
The Bangkok Criminal Court decision came in a case brought under Section 110 of the Criminal Code, a rarely used law which punishes anyone who commits acts of violence against the Thai royal family with either life imprisonment or imprisonment of sixteen to twenty years prison sentence. On 28 June 2023, the court ruled that the defendants did not intend to obstruct or harm the royal convoy as it passed through the rally, citing insufficient evidence. The court claimed that the police had not sufficiently informed the public–including the defendants and other protesters–that the motorcade would be in the area. The defendants were also found to lack access to confidential government information about the motorcade’s route. The court blamed the police for failing to prepare proper passage for the royal limousine.
In addition, the court determined that the defendants were likely unable to see the approaching motorcade since there were several rows of police officers surrounding the vehicles.
While FORUM-ASIA applauds the momentous acquittal of the said protesters, we remain deeply concerned regarding the judicial harassment still endured by a great number of human rights defenders in Thailand.
As of May 2023, there have been at least 1,218 cases against 1,914 individuals who were prosecuted as a result of their political participation in pro-democracy demonstrations from 2020 to 2023, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. FORUM-ASIA asserts that these cases should have never been subjected to prosecution in the first place.
We urge the Thai authorities to uphold people’s fundamental freedoms, including their right to peaceful assembly without fear of reprisals.