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Urgent Interventions

Thailand: Arbitrary detention of pro-democracy activist Benja Apan

Photo: © Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

THA 003 / 1021 / OBS 103
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Thailand
October 12, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Benja Apan, a student and pro-democracy activist with the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD)[1], on lèse-majesté charges in relation with the August 10, 2021 pro-democracy protest.

On October 7, 2021, Benja Apan was arrested at the Lumpini Police Station, Bangkok, where she had gone to hear a charge of violating the Emergency Decree for participating in a pro-democracy protest on September 3, 2021, at Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong intersection. The police arrested Ms. Benja on the basis of another outstanding arrest warrant issued against her under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”)[2], the Emergency Decree[3], and the Communicable Diseases Act. These charges stem from Ms. Benja’s participation in a pro-democracy protest on August 10, 2021, in front of the Sino-Thai Tower building on Asoke Road in Bangkok, during which she gave a speech that criticized the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and called for the reform of the Thai monarchy. Later on October 7, police took Ms. Benja to Bangkok’s Thong Lo Police station where she was detained overnight after being denied bail.

On October 8, 2021, Benja Apan appeared before the Bangkok South Criminal Court, which denied her bail arguing that the offenses of which she is accused carry a heavy penalty and that she previously committed the same offenses. Benja Apan was then taken to the Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok, where she was still being detained at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal. Ms. Benja is currently facing a total of six charges under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and she could face up to 90 years in prison, if tried and found guilty on all counts.

The Observatory notes with concern that between November 24, 2020, and October 8, 2021, 150 people, including many human rights defenders, were charged under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. Some of them - Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa - remain detained pending trial.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Benja Apan, Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa, which seem to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities and the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.

The Observatory calls on the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the five human rights defenders and to put an end to the judicial harassment against them and all other human rights defenders in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Benja Apan and all human rights defenders in Thailand, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Benja Apan, Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Benja Appan, Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa, and all other human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists in the country;

iv. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

v. Refrain from using Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists and amend all provisions of the Criminal Code used to repress fundamental rights and freedoms, and bring them into line with international human rights standards.

Addresses:

  • Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Email: spmwebsite@thaigov.go.th
  • Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Email: minister@mfa.go.th
  • Mr. Somsak Thepsutin, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Email: complainingcenter@moj.go.th
  • General Narongpan Jitkaewthae, Commander in Chief of the Army, Email: webadmin@rta.mi.th
  • Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, Commissioner-General of the Police, Email: info@royalthaipolice.go.th
  • Ms. Pornprapai Ganjanarinte, National Human Rights Commissioner of Thailand, Email: help@nhrc.or.th, info@nhrc.co.th
  • H.E. Mr. Sek Wannamethee, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: thaimission.GVA@mfa.mail.go.th
  • Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Email: thaibxl@thaiembassy.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Thailand in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, October 12, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:


[1] The United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) is a student pro-democracy group from Bangkok’s Thammasat University, which was formed amid the wave of nationwide student-led pro-democracy demonstrations that began in Thailand in February 2020. Since then, UFTD has played a key role in organising pro-democracy protests and continued to make open criticism of the monarchy and calls for the reform of the institution.

[2] Article 112 of the Criminal Code imposes jail terms for those who defame, insult, or threaten the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent. Persons found guilty of violating Article 112 face prison terms of three to 15 years for each count.

[3] The 2005 Emergency Decree on Public Administration in the State of Emergency (“Emergency Decree”) provides the legal basis for a series of restrictive measures aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19. Article 9 of the Emergency Decree prohibits public assemblies and the dissemination of online information that is “false” or capable of instigating fear among the public. Under Article 18, violations of measures under the Emergency Decree carry penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to 40,000 Baht (approximately 1,025 Euros).

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