6 activists in Chiang Mai have been charged with contempt of court after a complaint was filed against them by the Constitutional Court Office for protesting the court’s September 2022 ruling that Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha was allowed to stay Prime Minister despite the 8-year term limit imposed by the 2017 Constitution.
Police officers tried to seize a banner the activists brought with them to report to the inquiry officer.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that Sittiporn Ditthacharoen, Nattachai Sricharoen, Pitchsinee Chaithaweetham, Wittaya Chaikhamla, Theeraporn Pudtasee, and Thanadol Chantarat were charged with contempt of court for staging a protest on 30 September 2022 at Chiang Mai University to protest the court’s ruling.
The police said that a photo of the 6 activists were later posted onto social media, showing them wearing masks and hanging effigies of the Constitutional Court judges along with signs criticizing the court at several locations in Chiang Mai city – an action which the police said damages the public’s trust in the Constitutional Court.
They previously received a summons to report to the police on 2 May, but since several were unavailable, the appointment was postponed to today (22 May).
The activists reported to Mueang Chiang Mai Police Station this morning. The entrance to the building was blocked with metal fences, while plainclothes and uniformed police officers were stationed around the area. A small clash occurred when officers seized a banner saying “Reform the justice institution” from the activists, telling them that they were not allowed to show the banner because they did not inform the police beforehand.
The activists eventually put up the banner outside the police barrier. They also staged a performance in protest against the charge before going to meet the inquiry officer.
One of the activists staged a performance before reporting to the inquiry officer.
TLHR said that since the beginning of the pro-democracy protests in July 2020, at least 34 people have been charged with contempt of court for political expression. Among these cases, one was filed by the Constitutional Court in February 2022, when student activist Parit Chiwarak was charged with contempt of court for two Facebook posts made in December 2020 criticising the Constitutional Court for ruling that Prayut was allowed to stay in army housing despite being retired. However, in June 2022, the public prosecutor decided not to indict Parit due to lack of evidence.