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A 15-year-old girl charged with royal defamation following a complaint filed against her by a royalist activist was arrested on Tuesday (28 March) and is now detained at a juvenile centre.

The Ban Pranee Juvenile Vocational Training Centre for Girls (Photo supplied by a friend of Thanalop who followed her to the centre when she was taken there to be detained. The friends were not allowed to go inside the centre.)

Thanalop (last name withheld), now 15, was arrested on Tuesday (28 March) when she went to the Royal Palace Police Station after an activist was arrested for spray-painting graffiti calling for the repeal of the royal defamation law onto the wall of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha within the Grand Palace.

A video clip shows Thanalop being dragged into a room inside the police station by a group of police officers. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that the police initially claimed she was an accomplice in the incident at the Grand Palace and arrested her when she came to the police station. However, TLHR noted that, because she is a minor, the police can detain her only in the case of a flagrant offence or if they have an arrest warrant.    

While Thanalop was detained at the Royal Palace Police Station, lawyers were not allowed to see her until around 20.20. They were then told by the police that she was arrested for royal defamation on a warrant issued on 28 February.

In February 2023, Thanalop, who was 14 years old at the time, received a summons from Samranrat Police Station after she was accused of royal defamation by royalist activist Anon Klinkaew, head of the ultra-royalist group People’s Centre to Protect the Monarchy, due to an incident that occurred around the Giant Swing in Bangkok’s old town on 13 October 2022. She asked the police to postpone her appointment to 9 April as she has an examination, but an arrest warrant was issued for her regardless.

Thanalop told TLHR that she was sexually harassed by the arresting officers. The policemen sat on her and reached into her clothes, touching her legs and her chest to search her and confiscated her iPad, which she kept inside her shirt. She was then dragged inside an interrogation room, during which she tried to screamed for help and to make them stop.

The 15-year-old has asked her lawyer to file charges against the 8 arresting officers for theft, using violence to force her to do something against her will, and assault.

Thanalop sitting with her back to the judge while inside the courtroom at the Central Juvenile and Family Court

TLHR said Thanalop refused to participate in the process because she sees her arrest as unlawful and unfair. She was then moved to Samranrat Police Station, where the complaint against her was filed, and detained overnight before being taken to court in the morning. According to TLHR, women police officers had to carry her to force her to move. She was also charged with refusing to follow an officer’s order, because she refused to be fingerprinted.

TLHR said that Thanalop refused to appoint a lawyer, sign any document, or request bail. She was also carried into the courtroom by around 7 women police officers, and while inside the courtroom, she sat with her back to the judge as an act of protest.

The Central Juvenile and Family Court then ordered her to be immediately detained at the Ban Pranee Juvenile Vocational Training Centre for Girls in Nakhon Pathom for 30 days, making her the youngest person to be charged and held in pre-trial detention for royal defamation.

TLHR lawyer Khumklao Songsomboon said that she will be visiting Thanalop even though the 15-year-old did not appoint her as her lawyer, but that it remains to be seen whether she would be allowed to see Thanalop or whether Thanalop would continue refuse to appoint a lawyer.

Khumklao said that the law requires a lawyer to be appointed when a minor is facing a criminal charge, and that if a lawyer is not appointed, the trial would be unlawful. Thanalop therefore has to appoint a lawyer for the trial to proceed.

On the other hand, if the defendant is an adult capable of making their own decisions, they may not appoint a lawyer and fight their case with no legal counsel, unless their charge carries a severe penalty such as death or life imprisonment. 

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