Pita and others given suspended jail term over 2019 protest

Activists and politicians, including former PM candidate Pita Limjaroenrat, former Future Forward members and other 3 individuals, have been sentenced to four months in prison over a 2019 flash mob protest. The sentence was suspended for two years.

The court on Monday sentenced 8 activists and politicians to four months in jail for participating in a protest at Pathumwan Skywalk Intersection on 14 December 2019. The defendants included Pita, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Pannika Wanich, Piratthachot Chantarakajon, Nuttha Mahatana, Tanawat Wongchai, and Parit Chiwarak.

They were found guilty of violating the Assembly Act for organising a protest near the Pathumwa Intersection within a 150-metre radius of a prohibited area, the Sa Pathum Palace. Each was sentenced to four months in prison and fined 20,200 baht, both for violating the Assembly Act and for using a sound amplifier without permission. 

The sentences of all 8 defendants were suspended, as the protest was for purposes of political expression and not a serious crime. The defendants decided to appeal the verdict nonetheless.

“Shaping social agendas through peaceful assembly is a part of democracy. If it affects the freedom of others, protesters may need to be punished but the punishment must be commensurate with the action. Therefore, we will exercise the right to appeal,” Pita noted.

Piyabutr said the ruling did not align with the facts, particularly the distance between where they protested and the Palace.  He feels that the distance should have been measured from the point where the defendants stood, not from the end of the protest line.

The protest on 14 December 2019 was Thailand’s first big protest after the 2014 coup. It was in response to the Election Commission’s 11 December decision to disband the Future Forward Party. The protest was spearheaded by Thanathorn, who posted a Facebook invitation for people to gather. The demonstration took place on the skywalk between MBK Mall and the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. Protesters filled the skywalk and the courtyard in front of BACC. Reuters estimated that several thousand people took part.

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