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Thailand
18.11.21
Urgent Interventions

Thailand: Arbitrary detention of pro-democracy activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul

© Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

THA 004 / 1121 / OBS 120
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Thailand
November 18, 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. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, aka Rung, a student and prominent pro-democracy activist with the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD)[1].

On November 15, 2021, the Bangkok South Criminal Court denied bail to Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and ordered her detention in relation to charges under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”)[2]. These charges stem from her participation in a peaceful protest by a small group of activists who called for the repeal of Article 112 on December 20, 2020, at Siam Paragon shopping mall in Bangkok. Authorities accused Ms. Panusaya and the other activists of mocking King Rama X by wearing a crop top.[3]

The Bangkok South Criminal Court justified its decision to deny bail to Ms. Panusaya by arguing that the defendant had committed similar offenses and violated the conditions previously set by the Bangkok Criminal Court for her temporary release on May 6, 2021 [see below]. Ms. Panusaya is currently facing at least nine lèse-majesté charges, and could face 135 years in prison, if tried and found guilty in all cases. Ms. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul is currently detained at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul is arbitrarily detained for her legitimate human rights activities. On October 15, 2020, Ms. Panusaya was arrested and detained for 16 days after reading a 10-point manifesto calling for monarchy reform at a pro-democracy protest on August 10, 2020, at Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus in Pathumthani Province.

Ms. Panusaya was again detained from March 8 to May 6, 2021, in relation to another lèse-majesté case filed against her for calling for the reform of the Thai monarchy during a peaceful pro-democracy protest on September 19-20, 2020, in Bangkok. During that period of detention she was denied bail numerous times until she was granted temporary release by the Bangkok Criminal Court.

The Observatory underlines that the ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Panusaya and other human rights defenders in Thailand contradicted recent statements and commitments made by the Thai government. During the latest Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Thailand, which took place on November 10, 2021, the Thai government claimed that “human rights defenders have been highlighted as a specific group that needs appropriate protection” and that it “worked to create better understanding about the important role of human rights defenders.” The government accepted five recommendations that called for measures to guarantee civil society space, the protection of human rights defenders, and investigations into acts of harassment and attacks against them.

The Observatory also notes that between November 24, 2020, and November 16, 2021, 156 people, including many human rights defenders, were charged under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. In addition to Ms. Panusaya, five other human rights defenders - Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa and Benja Apan - are currently detained on lèse-majesté charges pending trial.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, 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 six 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 Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul 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 Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, 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 Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Benja Apan, 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, November 18, 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] In July 2016, photos were circulated online of then-Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn appearing to wear a crop top in a shopping mall in Germany.

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