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Cover photo: Thai Voice

Charges against 19 participants in an anti-Prayut protest on 30 September 2021 have been dropped due to a lack of evidence proving that the protest caused a disturbance to the public or the spread of COVID-19.

On 14 December, the Nonthaburi Kwaeng Court dismissed all charges against 19 participants in the 30 September 2021 protest, seeking the removal of the then-prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

On 30 September 2021, the former PM made an official visit to flood victims in Nonthaburi Province while anti-Prayut protesters gathered in different parts of the province, calling for his removal. Prayut later had to change his schedule as a result.

2 protesters were reportedly arrested on the same day at the Nonthaburi and Pak Kret piers. The police subsequently issued summonses for a total of 21 protesters, including a minor and Worawan Sae-aung.

20 were indicted on 3 charges: (1) joining an illegal gathering of more than 10 people and using force for the purpose of intimidation and causing a disturbance to the public, under Section 215 of the Criminal Code; (2) failing to disperse when ordered to by the police, under Section 216 of the Criminal Code; and (3) violating the Emergency Decree by organizing a gathering that posed a risk of COVID-19 transmission.  One defendant pleaded guilty and their case was separated from the others.

The court ruled that the Emergency Decree only authorizes the prohibition of gatherings in restricted areas and does not authorize the prohibition of gatherings on the grounds that they may pose a risk of disease transmission. In addition, no clear evidence showed how the gathering posed such a risk.

The protesters were alleged to have used a sound amplifier and tried to approach the former PM by using force and throwing water at police officers. The court said that under the constitution they have the right and freedom to express dissatisfaction with the PM’s work. The evidence presented to the court also was not sufficient to show how they caused a disturbance.

To be convicted under Section 216, they had first to be proven guilty of committing an offence under Section 215. As a result, this charge was automatically dismissed.

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