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Activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Nutanon Chaimahabut were released on bail on Tuesday (28 May) after spending over 100 days in pre-trial detention on a sedition charge for allegedly honking at and blocking a royal motorcade.

Tantawan Tuatulanon leaving Grand Palace Police Station after being re-arrested and released on bail. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that Tantawan was granted bail on Monday (27 May) on a security of 100,000 baht. However, she was not immediately released as she had a detention order on charges relating to a protest during the APEC summit in November 2022. Lawyers posted bail for her on Tuesday (28 May), and she was granted bail on a security of 30,000 baht.

She was also granted bail on 22 May on a royal defamation charge filed against her for livestreaming on Ratchadamnoen Road before a royal motorcade on 5 March 2022. The Court required a security of 100,000 baht. Tantawan also has to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

On Tuesday (28 May), corrections officers took Tantawan, who was being held at Thammasat University Hospital, to the Criminal Court so that the monitoring bracelet can be placed on her ankle. Her lawyer was then told that officers from the Grand Palace Police Station were coming to arrest her because of an outstanding arrest warrant.

Following negotiations, Tantawan’s lawyer was initially informed by the inquiry officer that the police would not arrest Tantawan but she will be required to report to the police at a later date. However, while she was at the Women Central Corrections Institution to finalise her release, police officers detained her and took her to the Grand Palace Police Station.

At the police station, Tantawan and her lawyer were informed that she was charged with being an accomplice in damaging a historic site and vandalizing a wall in a public place in relation to an incident in March 2023 where an activist sprayed protest graffiti onto the wall of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Prachatai reporter Nutthaphol Meksobhon, freelance photojournalist Natthaphon “Yha” Phanphongsanon and activist Noppasin Treelayapiwat were previously arrested on the same charges. TLHR noted that the arrest warrant for Tantawan was issued in May 2023, at the same time as the warrants for Nutthaphol, Natthaphon, and Noppasin. However, she was never arrested on these charges even though she attended many police appointments during the past year. The police also never visited her in prison to inform her of her charges.

While at the Grand Palace Police Station, Tantawan refused to be fingerprinted or sign any document, so the police charged her with refusing to follow an officer’s order. She was later granted bail on a security of 20,000 baht and was finally released at around 19.00.

Meanwhile, Nutanon was granted bail on a security of 100,000 baht. The Court said that the investigation has concluded in the sedition case against him and Tantawan and that he can no longer tamper with evidence.

Nutanon Chamahabut (white shirt) greeted by friends after his release. (photo by Ginger Cat)

Tantawan and Nutanon were arrested on 13 February on several charges, including sedition, for allegedly honking at and blocking a royal motorcade and for posting dash cam footage of the incident. They were subsequently denied bail.

In a Facebook post on 11 February, Tantawan said that she did not block or cut off the motorcade. She also said she did not know that there was going to be a motorcade. She was on the way back from a funeral and admitted that she was speeding because she was in a hurry.

The dashcam footage shows the vehicle stuck in traffic, and that the horn was sounded when it moved to the front of the line and the lane was blocked by a police vehicle. The footage also shows the vehicle stuck behind another police vehicle while at the exit from the expressway, and a police officer was seen approaching the vehicle before Tantawan was heard arguing.

Immediately after being denied bail, Tantawan and Nutanon went on hunger strike to call for judicial reform, the release of political prisoners, and for Thailand’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council to be rejected.

Tantawan was temporarily transferred to Thammasat University Hospital on 22 February, but was moved back to the Corrections Hospital on 5 April. She was transferred to Thammasat University Hospital again on 15 May, following the death of activist Netiporn Sanesangkhom, who was also on a hunger strike. Tantawan was reportedly held in the same ward as Netiporn and was an eyewitness when Netiporn went into cardiac arrest.

Before their release, Tantawan and Nutanon had been denied bail at least ten times.

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