Concerns have been raised after the Criminal Court refused to let several activists use money from a bail fund to post bail and did not allow a volunteer to act as their guarantor, requiring family members to file the bail request themselves.
Chitrin Plakantrong (Photo from TLHR)
Chitrin Plakantrong, 25, an activist from the Thalufah group, went to Nang Loeng Police Station on Wednesday (30 November) after learning that there is an arrest warrant out for him on charges relating to the burning of a royal ceremonial arch in front of Ratchawinit School during a protest on 19 September 2021. He was charged with royal defamation, destruction of property, arson, and violation of the Emergency Decree – the same charges given to two other activists, Pornchai Yuanyee and Micky (full name withheld) accused over the same incident. Another activist, Sinburi Saenkla, was also accused, but was not charged with royal defamation.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) noted that Chitrin never received a police summons on these charges, and officers never arrested him despite the warrant. He reported to the police himself because he was told by an officer from Nang Loeng Police Station that there was an arrest warrant out for him.
Chitrin was taken to court for a temporary detention request. TLHR reported that he was subsequently granted bail on a security of 100,000 baht. He was given a curfew of 18.00 – 6.00 and was given the conditions that he must not repeat his offense or participate in activities which can cause public disorder, commit violence against an official, or destroy public property. His father was also appointed as his supervisor on the condition that the court will confiscate the bail security if Chitrin violates his bail conditions.
The court also required him to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, which he was already wearing after being granted bail on other charges.
A TLHR information officer said that Chitrin’s lawyer asked his father to prepare money to post bail for him in advance, after the court did not allow Pornchai, Sinburi, and Micky to use money from the Will of the People Fund, a bail fund for pro-democracy protesters.
Ida Aroonwong, a representative of the Will of the People Fund, is concerned about the court’s recent requirements that guarantors posting bail for activists have to be a family member and that they must use their own money. She said that she is concerned that similar conditions would be deamnded of other protest leaders or protesters who continue their activism despite facing charges or who may have their bail revoked in the future.
Ida also noted the court’s condition that repeating one’s offense amounts to violating one’s bail conditions. This means that the court can confiscate bail money, and said that normally the court can only do this if the defendant tries to run.
Nevertheless, Ida believes that the Will of the People Fund will be able to continue to support prosecuted activists and protesters. She said that it is likely that the court only wanted to make sure that the supervisors will be able to make the defendants follow their bail conditions by requiring that they post bail using their personal funds.
She said that if the court insists on these conditions, it will be up to the court to prove its legitimacy and reliability, not the Will of the People Fund, which is helping people accessing their right to due process without economic or political obstacles, noting that there are other similar organizations, such as the Justice Fund under the Ministry of Justice.
On Tuesday (29 November), activist Nawapol Tonngam was also denied bail and detained for one night at Bangkok Remand Prison following his indictment, as the Criminal Court refused to allow a volunteer guarantor to post bail for him.
Nawapol was charged with destruction of public property, destruction of property, arson, and violation of the Emergency Decree in relation to a protest on 19 August 2021 at the Democracy Monument, during which activists burned effigies of the cabinet and senators. The public prosecutor claimed that the burning damaged the road around the Democracy Monument, costing around 157,000 baht in damage.
The court required that a family member post bail for Nawapol and agree to be made his guardian. The Court also required the guarantor to agree that they will be held responsible if Nawapol breaks his bail conditions.
Protesters kicking the remains of the effigies burned at the end of the 19 August protest
Nawapol was granted bail on Tuesday (29 November) after his lawyer filed another bail request naming a family member as his guarantor and guardian and with a security of 90,000 baht. He is required to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and was given a curfew of 20.00 - 6.00. He was given the conditions that he must not repeat his offences, must not participate in activities which can damage public property or harm an official, and must not leave the country.
Although he was not charged with royal defamation in this instance, he was also given the condition that he must not do anything that can affect the monarchy.
Nawapol was released after spending a night in Bangkok Remand Prison.
TLHR said that the court’s requirement would increase the burden on activists and protesters who were prosecuted, since they would not be able to have their security covered by the Will of the People Fund, noting that the amount of bail can range anywhere from a thousand baht to a hundred thousand baht.