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During Srettha Thavisin’s 7-month tenure, political prosecutions, particularly for royal defamation, have remained an ongoing concern with no sign of improvement. Citizens and activists continue to be jailed for political expression and many have been denied their right to bail, says Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

TLHR reported on Wednesday that since the formation of the Pheu Thai-led coalition on 5 September 2023, the human rights situation in Thailand has remained a matter of concern, with no indication of the improvements that people had hoped for. Instead, citizens continue to be detained for political expression and many have been subjected to state intimidation.

TLHR reports that at least 144 citizens have been subject to intimidation by state authorities.  This has taken various forms, including: police visits to homes and workplaces, summons for questioning and repeated demands for information, as well as interference with private activities.

In one instance, plainclothes police approached and photographed citizens and activists who were exercising their constitutional right to collect signatures in support of the People’s Amnesty bill. Some had their homes visited by the police. Others were instructed to stop arranging such activities.

On many other occasions citizens and activists had their movements monitored by state authorities in areas where members of the royal family or important political figures, including PM Srettha, were travelling.

Bail rights ‘disappear’ in royal defamation cases

During the past 7 months, at least 24 people were detained on political charges. Of these, 17 were charged with royal defamation. Under the new administration, bail has been consistently denied to those filing appeals after being sentenced to prison for royal defamation. In the remaining cases, only 6 were allowed bail. The rest were detained, some for extended periods, even though the court had yet to determine their guilt and they did not pose flight risk.

Observing that the right to bail is seemingly now in doubt, TLHR adds that individuals accused of relatively minor crimes have also been receiving excessively harsh prison sentences.  In the case of Warunee, for example, the defendant was sentenced to 1 year and 6 months in prison for posting a picture of the Emerald Buddha statue wearing a dress.

Under the new administration, political cases against 45 people are pending or have been adjudicated - the highest number 4 years.

TLHR adds that the new government has consistently failed to comment upon or respond to the demands of political detainees. This includes ignoring the January demands of hunger-striking detainees that Thailand be denied a seat on UN Human Rights Council since the government had not addressed or resolved several domestic human rights issues, including political prosecution and political detainees. It also failed to respond to other demands, including calls for the restoration of bail rights, and judicial reform, as well as demands that the government suspend ongoing cases during the consideration of the Amnesty Bill and stop issuing detention requests for defendants who do not pose a flight risk and were unlikely to tamper with evidence.

Political lawsuits continue to rise

Since 2020, a total of 1,293 political lawsuits have been filed.  Some 748 cases are ongoing. Among these, the number of royal defamation cases has skyrocketed to 301.

Recently, the police charged two leaders of the People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-move) under the Public Assembly Act after they staged a  February protest in front of Government House to address land and resources issues. The charges were separated into 4 cases, the first protest-related cases to be brought under this administration.

TLHR observes that although the number seems small when compared to the number of prosecutions pursued under former Prayut Chan-o-cha administration, it suggests that political prosecutions are unlikely to stop under the current government. The court continues to approve arrest warrants and deny bail, allowing cases in court to proceed and issue verdicts against the backdrop of continued political conflict.

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