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The Supreme Court today (4 June) sentenced activist Nutchanon Pairoj to 1 month in prison, suspended for 2 years, and a fine of 500 baht on a contempt of court charge relating to a protest on 29 April 2021 at the Criminal Court.

Nutchanon Pairoj (left)
(Photo by Ginger Cat)

Nutchanon was previously found guilty and sentenced to 4 months in prison by the Criminal Court. The Appeal Court upheld the guilty verdict, but reduced his sentence to 1 month in prison on the grounds that the penalty given by the Criminal Court was too severe. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that the Supreme Court ruled to suspend his sentence on the grounds that the protest took place on the steps to the Criminal Court building, not inside the court, and fining him and putting him on probation would be better.

In addition to the fine, the Supreme Court required Nutchanon to report to a probation officer 3 times over a period of 1 year and perform 24 hours of community service.

On 29 April 2021, a crowd gathered on the steps of the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court while lawyers went to file a bail request for 7 activists who were detained pending trial at the time on royal defamation charges. During the protest, Benja and a group of other students came to the Criminal Court to submit an open letter signed by over 10,000 people demanding the release of detained activists.

When judge Chanathip Muanpawong did not come out to receive the letter, activist Benja Apan scattered pieces of paper printed with the names of those who signed the letter on the steps of the court building. She also read out a poem by Anon Nampa, which criticised the judicial process and called on judges to grant justice to the people.

During the protest, Nutchanon gave a speech on the steps of the court, saying that he does not count the judges as alumni of Thammasat University, where he was currently studying, because they do not love the people as stated in the university’s motto. He also shouted for Chanathip to come receive their open letter and said that the judges “have no backbone.”

Nutchanon said that he made the statement because he believes that denying detained activists bail rights is an injustice that goes against legal principles. The court found him guilty of contempt of court, not for expressing opinions different from the court, but rather for joining a protest, shouting, and acting rudely in a court area in an attempt to use a crowd to pressure the court, which violates the court’s independence in ruling on a case.

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