Two activists charged with contempt of court

Activists Netiporn Sanesangkhom and Thanalop Phalanchai have been charged with contempt of court for an incident on 19 October, during which a police officer hit Netiporn with a baton and injured her.

On 19 October, Netiporn and Thanalop were attending the trial of Saharat Sukkhamla, a graduate from Mahidol University’s College of Religious Studies and ex-novice monk, who was found guilty of royal defamation. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said the two activists climbed onto a fence near the cell at the South Bangkok Criminal Court building in an attempt to ask if Saharat needed anything to eat while he was detained pending the result of his bail request.

A court marshal and two security guards stopped them and threatened to charge them with contempt of court.  Netiporn explained that they wanted to ask Saharat about visiting if he was not granted bail but the marshal refused to let them. Instead, he pulled Thanalop away from the fence. Netiporn said she tried to pull him away from Thanalop but was blocked by the two security guards who hit her on the arm and back.

According to TLHR, Thanalop and Netiporn approached the court marshal to ask for his name and to inquire whether he had the authority to charge them with contempt of court. Netiporn asserts he responded by punching her shoulder. She started arguing with him and tried to kick him. He reportedly responded by hitting her with his baton, injuring her arm.

Netiporn and several other activists tried to file a complaint with the director of the court’s administrative office for the marshal’s excessive use of force. However, she was not allowed to meet the director and was told by an officer that she needed to meet with a judge instead. The officer did not explain why or mention that she was being charged with something.

Still bleeding, Netiporn decided to head to a hospital but she and the rest of the activists were blocked from leaving the building by officers who told her that she had to report to a judge before she could leave. TLHR said a bystander tried to negotiate with the court officers, explaining that Netiporn had not been charged with anything and should be allowed to go have her injury treated. When the officers refused, the activists tried to push past them at which point, according to Netiporn, one of the marshals touched her breasts.

TLHR reports that on Monday (27 November), the South Bangkok Criminal Court charged Netiporn and Thanalop with contempt of court over the incident. A hearing was previously scheduled for yesterday, but the activists’ lawyer asked for it to be postponed. It has been rescheduled to 25 December.

Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: [email protected], please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”