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A group of activists and protesters marched through the Siam Square shopping district in central Bangkok on Monday (29 January) as part of a campaign for a bill granting amnesty to pro-democracy activists and protesters.

Activists standing at the Ratchaprasong Intersection. Their sign reads "Amnesty for the people".

Activists from the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG), the Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution (CCPC), Thalugaz, and other members of the public marched from the Ratchaprasong Intersection to the Siam Square One shopping mall holding signs calling for an amnesty bill in the hope of raising awareness about detention of political activists and an upcoming campaign by the Network for People’s Amnesty to introduce an amnesty bill to parliament.

During the march, the activists stopped in front of the Police General Hospital, the Police Headquarters, and Siam Square One where they stood holding signs saying “Amnesty for the people.” After ending the activity at Siam Square, they went to the Chatuchak Park MRT station, where they gave out stickers and brochures about the amnesty bill to passers-by.

While in front of Siam Square One, a police officer from Pathumwan Police Station ordered the activists to disperse within 30 minutes and announced that they were violating the Public Assembly Act by holding a public gathering without notifying the police.

A police officer from Pathumwan Police Station ordering the activists to disperse within 30 minutes.

CCPC’s Teerat Panijudompach said that activists and protesters facing charges for participating in protests since 2006 should be granted amnesty, since they are being prosecuted for exercising their political freedoms, a fundamental right that should not be interfered with.

Teerat said that facing a politically-motivated charge affects not only the individual activist but also their family and friends. He noted that many people facing prosecution are working class and are being made to shoulder the financial burden of posting bail and traveling to court, while anyone who has to attend many court or police appointments may not be able to have a full-time job.

The Network for People’s Amnesty will be launching a campaign from 1 – 14 February to collect signatures so the amnesty bill can be introduced to parliament. If passed, the bill would grant amnesty to those facing charges for taking part in political protests since 2006, including those charged with royal defamation.

Teerat said that, although questions have been raised about granting amnesty to people charged with royal defamation, it is clear that there is a political motivation behind the use of the royal defamation law. He noted that many activists were charged with royal defamation although their action did not constitute an offence under the law, since they did not defame the King.

The problem, Teerat said, is that anyone can file a royal defamation complaint against someone else and the police must take it, so a large number of people has been affected. He said that, if the law cannot be repealed or amended, then these people should be granted amnesty to prevent further damage.

The campaign needs public support, and Teerat believes that more people backing the bill would mean more pressure on the government. He said that there is no democracy as long as there are still political prisoners, and called on the public to back the bill and show their support for the campaign.

An activist handing out stickers with a QR code to the campaign's website near the Chatuchak Park MRT station.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at least 1,938 people have been prosecuted for political expression between 18 July 2020 and 31 December 2023.  Some 286 of these are under the age of 18. A minimum 262 people have been charged with royal defamation, while at least 138 people have been charged with sedition.

TLHR reported that some 26 people are currently held in detention pending trial or appeal on charges relating to political expression and participation in pro-democracy protests. Of this number, 17 are detained on a royal defamation charge, 2 of whom are minors held in juvenile detention centres.

At least 13 people are also serving prison sentences on charges relating to political expression after a final verdict has been reached or following a decision not to appeal. Of this number, 6 people are detained for royal defamation.

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