THAILAND: Additional freedom of expression arrest and denial of bail by junta

The Asian Human Rights Commission is gravely concerned to have learned that another activist, Pornthip (last name withheld), age 25, who graduated from the Faculty of Political Science at Ramkhamhaeng University, has been arrested in relation to a complaint under Article 112 of the Criminal Code in Thailand. This is the second arrest of someone in relation to the performance of a play, “The Wolf Bride,” (Jao Sao Ma Pa), held in October 2013 at Thammasat University in Bangkok as part of the fortieth-anniversary commemorations of the 14 October 1973 student and people’s movement and uprising. Yesterday, the AHRC issued a statement (AHRC-STM-157-2014) about the first arrest, of Patiwat (last name withheld) and noted that the arrest was a clear example of the growing crisis of the criminalization of freedom of speech following the 22 May coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

The investigations of Patiwat and Pornthip are part of an expansion following the coup in the number of people facing charges with alleged violations of Article 112, which stipulates that, “Whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” According to information collected by the Internet Dialogue on Law Reform (iLaw), there are twelve new cases pending in various criminal courts around the country and in the Bangkok military court. The way in which action has been taken against Patiwat and Pornthip only now, ten months after the performance of the play in question, suggests that the junta and their allies view the past as an open book of acts and speech which can be criminalized in retrospect.

Pornthip was arrested on 15 August in the Hat Yai Airport and was then brought to appear in the Criminal Court in Bangkok on 16 August. The police investigations of both of them remain ongoing and they have not been criminally charged. They both requested bail, but in both cases the Court denied bail and approved temporary detention orders submitted by the police while the investigation continues. The basis for the denial of bail is that complaint against them is grave and if bail were granted, they might flee. Patiwat is currently being held in the Bangkok Remand Prison and Pornthip is being held in the Women’s Central Prison.

While the denial of bail and extended precharge and pretrial detention have become typical in Article 112 cases, this does not make this practice just or in line with the principles of human rights. The refusal to grant bail to Patiwat and Pornthip is a clear violation of their human rights and is in conflict with Thailand’s obligations as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The right to temporary release is a crucially important legal principle established in international law to which Thailand has acceded. In particular, the AHRC would like to remind the junta and the Criminal Court that Article 9(3) of the ICCPR stipulates that, “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment.” In the case of Patiwat and Pornthip, they are being denied temporary release even prior to be charged.

The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the coup in the strongest terms possible and wishes to express grave concern about the denial of freedom of expression and the expanding witch hunt of those who express, or have expressed in the past, critical or dissenting views. The AHRC calls for the immediate release of Patiwat and Pornthip and for the investigations of them and others facing prosecution under Article 112 to be dropped.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-159-2014
Countries : Thailand,
Issues : Military,