Activist Thanalop Phalanchai, 15, was released on Thursday (18 May) after spending 51 days in pre-trial detention on a royal defamation charge at the Ban Pranee Juvenile Vocational Training Centre for Girls.
Thanalop Phalanchai (holding microphone) speaking to reporters after her release. (Photo by Ginger Cat)
Thanalop had been detained pending trial since 28 March, after a complaint 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.
Thanalop received a summons from Samranrat Police Station in February 2023. She later requested to postpone her appointment because she had an examination. The police approved her request, but an arrest warrant was issued for her regardless.
She was arrested on 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.
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 a 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 Court then ordered her detained.
Students at the Triam Udom Suksa Pattanakarn School, where Thanalop is enrolled, staged a protest on Tuesday (16 May) to demand her release. The student activist group TUP Democracy called the protest, saying that if Thanalop was not released in time for the first day of school, she would never be able to return to class.
A teacher at the school told Decode.plus, an online news outlet under ThaiPBS, that Thanalop has until 23 May to report to the school to remain enrolled.
Lawyer Kunthika Nutcharus, who is representing Thanalop for a complaint she filed against her arresting officers, said that she was told by Ban Pranee officials that the Juvenile Centre received a release order for Thanalop and that the court had rejected the police’s request to continue her detention.
A small crowd formed in front of Ban Pranee in the afternoon to welcome Thanalop, who was released at around 16.00.
Speaking to reporters after she was released, Thanalop said she will continue to denounce the court, since it has no legitimacy in prosecuting her. She also questioned why officers from Samranrat Police Station requested an arrest warrant for her, even though she filed a request postponing her appointment.
The 15-year-old said her arrest was both physically and emotionally violent, and that it was a violation of human rights.
“I lost 51 days in Ban Pranee. Do I deserve to be arrested like that?” she asked. “I showed them my educational future, but they still issued an arrest warrant for me, and the Court approved it. Did you see that I’m still in school? Did you issue an arrest warrant without thinking of a child’s education?”
She said that her lawyer told her another teenager had been charged with royal defamation over Facebook posts, and that this shows how the royal defamation law is problematic and she would like the public to see that.
Thanalop was taken to hospital after she was released, since she had developed a severe skin condition while detained at Ban Pranee. She saw a doctor again today (19 May), who said that she likely developed a rash due to the lack of hygiene in the centre, combined with the hot weather. The doctor noted that the rash worsened because the centre gave her a topical cream containing steroid. When used for over two weeks, the steroid suppresses her immune system, making the rash spread and eventually leading to an infection.
At 10.00 today (19 May), Thanalop reported to Triam Udom Suksa Pattanakarn School and joined her Mathayom 4 class. Activists who accompanied her to school said that there were plainclothes police officers around the school taking pictures of Thanalop, and that while they were completing her enrolment, around 5-6 police cars were driving in and out of the school.