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The Appeal Court for Specialised Cases has upheld the decision not to release a political activist from a juvenile detention centre on a royal defamation charge following his participation in a 2021 protest.

The Central Juvenile and Family Court denied the release of Phum, a 20-year-old activist, after he appealed the Court order to detain him. The case stems from his participation in a 2021 protest at the Khlong Luang Police Station, demanding the release of the political activist Sirichai Natueng, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

Phum, who was then 17 years old, and others reportedly threw dog food at an image of King Vajiralongkorn located in front of the police station. He was charged with royal defamation, participating in an assembly of more than 10 people, violating the Emergency Decree, and insulting an official.

The court stated that his action was believed to target the image of the King, which is a representation of the King who is adored and worshipped by the Thai people. It was also alleged that the activist used offensive and derogatory words towards the image.

Last year, the activist pleaded guilty and the court used alternative sentencing, ordering him to be detained for 1 year and requiring him to participate in two vocational training programmes.

Even though his legal advisor filed a petition with the Court, requesting it to change the order since his mother had returned from abroad and was ready to take care of him, the Court refused to reconsider.

The legal advisor then appealed the case to the Appeal Court for Specialised Cases, stating that the Central Juvenile and Family Court’s decision was illegitimate and breached the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Court was requested to return the activist to his parent’s supervision.

The Court on Tuesday ruled to uphold the court’s original decision.

According to TLHR, Phum underwent shoulder surgery in June. Juvenile detention centre officials removed him from the hospital after 5 days, even though he had not fully recovered.

Phum lived with his mother and grandmother. He has so far been detained for 9 months with no opportunity to work to support his family. While his surgery-related injury has yet to improve, detention is difficult for him as is his participation in the remaining training programme ordered by the court.  

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