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Thailand – Judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of defenders

50 has received worrying information regarding arrests and imprisonment of human rights defenders over the past months in Thailand. has been informed about the arbitrary detention, judicial harassment and physical attacks against pro-democracy youth activists. Tantawan ‘Tawan’ Tuatulanon is a pro-democracy student activist associated with pro-democracy groups Draconis Revolution and Thalu Wang (Shattering the Palace) who has advocated for the abolition of Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”) and the reform of the Thai monarchy. As a former We Volunteer member, Nutanon ‘Frank” Chaimahabut helped ensure the safety of participants during many pro-democracy protests.

Tantawan Tuatulanon and Nutanon Chaimahabut were arrested on February 13, 2024, in front of the Bangkok Criminal Court for their involvement in a protest that blocked road traffic for a royal motorcade on February 4, 2024. They were taken to the Din Daeng police station for questioning. Tantawan faces charges including sedition, failure to comply with an official’s order, and public nuisance, as well as a charge under the Computer Crimes Act. Nutanon faces similar charges, along with additional charges for insulting an official and excessive use of a vehicle’s sound signal.

The Bangkok Criminal Court approved a 12-day detention request by the police until February 25, 2024, at the investigative stage, and bail requests submitted by TLHR, representing the activists, were denied by the Court. If convicted, Tantawan could face up to seven years, one month, and 10 days in prison, while Nutanon could face up to eight years, one month, and 10 days.

On the same day, TLHR received a threatening call from an unidentified man asking for the contacts of the lawyers representing the activists. When TLHR staff refused to provide the information, the man threatened to raid their office with weapons. TLHR later filed a complaint regarding the incident.

The situation of civic space and activists in Thailand is worrying. Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code prescribes prison terms of three to 15 years per count for anyone who defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, Heir to the throne or Regent. Over the past decade, various UN human rights monitoring mechanisms have repeatedly expressed concerns about the application of this article. They have on several occasions considered this law to be incompatible with international human rights law and have called for its amendment or repeal, as well as the release of lèse-majesté detainees.

Anon Nampa a defender involved in Thailand’s pro-democracy protest movement in 2020 – 2021 was convicted by the Bangkok Criminal Court in two lèse-majesté cases, on September 26, 2023, and January 17, 2024. He was sentenced to four years in prison for each case. The two sentences are to be served consecutively, for a total prison term of eight years. Anon Nampa is currently facing legal action in connection with 12 more lèse-majesté cases. Before his imprisonment, he was held in pre-trial detention for two prolonged periods (113 days and 202 days). The courts have denied his numerous bail requests.

Finally, was informed of worrying developments and suspicion of collaboration between the Thai Police and the Cambodian government. Indeed, on February 2, 2024, Lem Sokha, Phan Phana, and Kung Raiya – three Cambodian activists who had fled to Thailand in the past years to escape political persecution, were arrested for planning to organise a protest on 7 February which coincided with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet’s official visit to Thailand for discussions on trade and border-related matters.

Before having his phone confiscated, Phan Phana expressed concerns over the possibility of being deported to Cambodia. He feared the involvement of the CPP in his arrest since the police were seeking information about other activists.