An activist holding a poster with a drawing of Thanalop during a protest on 2 April demanding her release.

Lawyer prevented from seeing detained 15-year-old

For the first week 15-year-old Thanalop spent in pre-trial detention at a Juvenile Centre, her lawyer said Centre officials refused to allow her visitors and did not inform the lawyer that Thanalop had contracted Covid-19 until several days after she tested positive.

An activist holding a poster with a drawing of Thanalop during a protest on 2 April demanding her release. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Thanalop was arrested on 28 March when she went to the Royal Palace Police Station after another 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. She had previously received a summons, but despite asking the police to postpone her appointment to 9 April as she has an examination, an arrest warrant was issued for her regardless.

Thanalop denounced the judicial process as being unfair and unlawful, and refused to take part in it. She would not sign any document or appoint a lawyer, and was later charged with refusing to follow an officer’s order, because she refused to be fingerprinted. When she was taken to court the next morning, she was carried into the courtroom, where 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.

On 30 March, activist Sopon Surariddhidhamrong went to see her at the Juvenile Centre to discuss issues with her school application. Sopon would be her last visitor for the next week.

Although Thanalop was allowed visitors on 31 March, the Juvenile Centre refused to let lawyers see her on Monday (3 April). An official at the Centre said that its Director prohibited visitors from seeing Thanalop, claiming that now that someone has spoken to her about her school applications there is nothing else to discuss with her. They also said that lawyers will not be able to see her even if she appointed one as her legal counsellor.

Protesters gathering in front of the UN headquarters in Bangkok on 4 April to submit a petition about the pre-trial detention of Thanalop and another 19-year-old protester. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Lawyer Kunthika Nutcharus said that she has tried to filed complaint with several agencies about how officials at Ban Pranee prohibited her from seeing Thanalop, and that she received a call from the Bangkok Juvenile Observation and Protection Centre, who is responsible for overseeing juvenile detention, on 5 April. The official told her that officials from Ban Pranee said Thanalop tested positive for Covid-19 2 – 3 days earlier and so is not allowed visitors. However, when Kunthika asked why she was not informed that Thanalop has Covid-19 when she went to Ban Pranee every day, and why she was not allowed a virtual visit via a teleconference system, the officer did not answer her questions, only telling her that they called the lawyer because they felt Thanalop’s guardians should be informed.

Kunthika noted that, when she told the officer she would pass the information onto Sopon, the officer said she could do so and that Ban Pranee officials may not want to give information about detainees to an unknown person. However, Kunthika noted that Thanalop considers Sopon her guardian and that her family has given him permission to act on their behalf on matters concerning her.

Kunthika said that she herself faced difficulties trying to see Thanalop. Officials at the Centre said that she was not the 15-year-old’s lawyer, but Kunthika said that, while she is not representing Thanalop in the royal defamation charge, since Thanalop refused to participate in the judicial process, she is representing Thanalop in the charges she filed against officers from Royal Palace Police Station, who assaulted her during her arrest.

 

A video clip of Thanalop being dragged inside an interrogation room at Royal Palace Police Station when she was arrested on 28 March.

 

When Thanalop was arrested, she was held to the ground by 8 male officers, who sat on top of her and reached into her clothes to search her, despite other activists telling the officers that, because she is a minor, they cannot search her without a lawyer and a social worker present. Thanalop told Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) that the officers touched her legs and her chest, and confiscated her iPad, which she kept inside her shirt, before dragging her into an interrogation room. She then decided to press charges against the officers for theft, misconduct, assault, and using force to compel her to act against her will.

Kunthika also said that the 2022 Juvenile Centre visiting regulations allow lawyers to visit, not only legal counselors, but the officials may not understand since Thanalop denounced the judicial process. Nevertheless, Kunthika said that it is not a valid reason to deprive Thanalop of her right to legal counsel.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s the lawyer in any case, or if they appoint a lawyer, or whether they reject the judicial process. It does not automatically give you the right to deprive them of their right to counsel,” Kunthika said.

“If we believe in providing children their rights under any conventions or child protection, these things can actually be discussed. I well know that the law on juvenile legal proceedings have a lot of allowances for the child’s rights. To say that the child refused it herself, so you don’t have to give her rights, I think it’s not true.”

Kunthika believes that the current regulations used by the Juvenile Centre makes Thanalop’s detention arbitrary, because no one person should have the sole authority to decide whether she would be allowed visitors and who would be allowed to see her, and because minors should also have the same rights as other detainees.

The gates of the Ban Pranee Juvenile Vocational Training Centre for Girls on 29 March, after Thanalop was taken there. (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.)

The lawyer noted several changes to visiting procedures at Ban Pranee. The centre has closed its gates, whereas previously visitors only needed to leave their IDs at the door to go in. Officials have also refused permission to see her until she told them she wished to donate something to the detainees, and even then they refused to sign in her donation. Lawyers visiting defendants in other cases also said that they were not allowed to see their clients either.

Kunthika said that on 5 April, a lawyer on her team who went to Ban Pranee spoke to an official at the gate, and was put on a call with an individual claiming to be the Director of the Bangkok Juvenile Observation and Protection Centre, who told the lawyer that their request was being considered and that, citing a discussion with the Juvenile and Family Court, only a legal counsellor appointed by the 15-year-old would be allowed to visit her.

When the lawyer asked why the Director or Ban Pranee officials needed to discuss the issue with the court, the official gave no answer. Afterwards, she received a phone call informing her that Thanalop contracted Covid-19, and that she was also given a list of people the official said Thanalop would allow a visit. The official also told her that lawyers would be allowed to visit during weekdays while her family and trusted persons would be allowed to see her during the weekends.

On 6 April, lawyers once again tried to visit Thanalop. However, they were not allowed into the Centre despite being on a list of people who an official said would be allowed to see the 15-year-old. An official at Ban Pranee claimed that the lawyer was not on the list, and said that they would be allowed to see her on 8 April.

The lawyer told the official that they have been informed by another official that they would be allowed to see Thanalop on weekdays, but the official gave no clear answer other than that it was part of the Centre’s Covid-19 prevention measures.

Kunthika noted that officials did not facilitate the visit for any of the lawyers on her team, and that several measures being used at the centre are not in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, child protection principles, or the Thai Constitution.

An activist handing out pamphlets about Thanalop to passers-by during a protest on 2 April demanding her release. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Kunthika was finally allowed to see Thanalop on 8 April. In an update she posted on her Facebook page, Kunthika said that officials overseeing juvenile detention are now facilitating her visit and that she believes there would be no problem for her to see Thanalop going forward. She also said that Thanalop was very sick during the past few days since she contracted Covid-19 and has not fully recovered, but that she is mentally well and asked that people write to her.

Kunthika said that, during the visit, she had Thanalop sign several documents in case she has to act on Thanalop’s behalf regarding her school application. She also asked Thanalop to sign a consent form for submitting her case to the United Nations’ Human Right Working Group. However, an official took the document and asked her not to have Thanalop sign it, saying that the Centre’s Director was concerned, even though Thanalop said she understands what the document was about and that she is willing to sign it.

Kunthika said that, in her opinion, Thanalop should be able to sign the consent form, and that the UN Working Group may also have her parents give their consent if there is any mistake or rule whether the consent form is valid. In any case, it is not up to the Centre to decide whether Thanalop should be able to sign the form. She also said that Thanalop gave verbal consent for Kunthika to sign the form on her behalf.

Activist Anna Annanon sat chained to a chair, covered in red paint, during a protest on 8 April to demand Thanalop's release. (Photo from ไข่แมวชีส)

Meanwhile, activists once again met at the Siam walking street on 8 April to stage a protest demanding Thanalop’s release. During the protest, activist Anna Annanon chained herself to a chair and had red paint thrown on her, while toys were scattered around her. The activists also played a voice clip of Thanalop’s screams when she was arrested.

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