Student protest demands release of 15-year-old activist

Students and alumni of Triam Udom Suksa Pattanakarn School stood in front of the school for 1 hour and 12 minutes on Tuesday (16 May) to protest the detention of 15-year-old Thanalop Phalanchai, an activist and fellow student at the school.

Students standing in front of the Triam Udom Suksa Pattanakarn School holding protest signs demanding Thanalop's release.

The student activist group TUP Democracy called the protest, saying that if Thanalop is not released in time for the first day of school, she will never be able to return to class.

Several students joining Tuesday’s protest noted that the school year has already started and that Tuesday was the last day students could report to the school. Since Thanalop has not been released, she might lose her student status. 

Khaofang (pseudonym), a friend of Thanalop, said that the students wanted to demand that Thanalop be released so she can come back to class and for the school to ensure that she can join the Mathayom 4 class in the current academic year.

Several alumni also joined the protest. Ploy, 19, said that she found out from the news that a student at her alma mater is being prosecuted for royal defamation and detained. She said she joined the protest because she thinks Thanalop deserves to continue her education, since she is a student at the school and has passed the entrance exam required to join the Mathayom 4 class, but cannot come to school because she is being unfairly detained.

Weerapat Kantha (second from right)

Weerapat Kantha, a Move Forward MP candidate who recently won the election for Phra Pradaeng District, said that he joined the protest because he is friends with lawyer Kunthika Nutcharus, who is representing Thanalop, and because he is also a Triam Udom Suksa Pattanakarn alumnus. He said he wanted to make a stand against a problematic justice system, and because Thanalop is being detained for a very long time even though she is a minor, noting that the court has the authority to release her.

“I was told that she topped the entrance exam for the Chinese language track. It shows that we have a child with a bright future being detained by the Thai justice system. It means we have to go back and consider whether we are doing the right thing,” he said.

The activist group ThaluWang also posted on their Facebook page that protest signs appeared at Triam Udom Suksa Pattanakarn School and Rittiyawannalai School throughout the school day raising awareness about Thanalop’s detention and how she is being deprived of a high school education.

After she was arrested on 28 March, Thanalop has been detained pending trial at the Ban Pranee Juvenile Vocational Training Centre for Girls in Nakhon Pathom on a royal defamation charge. She initially filed a request with the police to postpone her appointment with the inquiry officer because she had an examination, and the police accepted her request. However, an arrest warrant was later issued for her.

During her arrest, 8 male officers sat on top of her and reached into her clothes to search her, Thanalop told Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR). She said that they touched her legs and her chest and confiscated her iPad, which she kept inside her shirt, before dragging her into an interrogation room. No lawyer or social worker were present when she was arrested and detained by the police, even though it is the requirement for the detention of a minor.

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 charge was filed against her by royalist Anon Klinkaew, head of the ultra-royalist group People’s Centre to Protect the Monarchy, for an incident that occurred around the Giant Swing in Bangkok’s old town on 13 October 2022. At the time, Thanalop was 14 years old.

On 10 May, police officers attempted to see Thanalop at Ban Pranee to inform her that more charges had been filed against her without informing her guardian or lawyer. This resulted in a protest at Samranrat Police Station, leading to the arrest of 9 activists following a clash.

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