Activist granted bail after 26 days in prison

Activist Shinawat Chankrajang has been granted bail after spending 26 days in pre-trial detention on a royal defamation charge.

Shinawat Chankrajang shaved his head during the 28 July 2022 protest (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Shinawat was arrested on 30 July by officers from Yannawa Police Station and charged with royal defamation, violation of the Computer Crimes Act, and using a sound amplifier without permission for participating in a protest in front of the South Bangkok Criminal Court on 28 July, in which protesters stood for 1 hour and 12 minutes to demand the release of detained activists. Shinawat and several other protesters also shaved their heads in front of a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn to call attention to the use of the royal defamation law against citizens without regard for human rights. They also performed a traditional curse ritual involving the burning of salt and chilli.

The complaint against him was filed on 29 July by the ultra-royalist group People’s Centre to Protect the Monarchy, who claimed that Shinawat acted “inappropriately” in front of the King’s portrait, and that he gave a speech accusing the King of using judicial power to harass people.

Shinawat was detained at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau for 2 nights before being taken to the South Bangkok Criminal Court on 1 August for a temporary detention request and was subsequently denied bail.

He initially refused to take part in the judicial process, and so did not allow his lawyer to object to the temporary detention request or post bail for him. He also released a statement questioning the neutrality of the court when ruling on a case of royal defamation, since it has declared itself to be an organization acting in the name of the King. Since the King is a party to the conflict in a royal defamation case, Shinawat declared that he refused to accept the authority of the court until it can prove itself to be neutral and not under the authority of the King.

On Friday (26 August), Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that the Court of Appeal granted Shinawat bail using a security of 150,000 baht. He was also given the conditions that he must not repeat his offenses and must not leave the country.

During his bail hearing, Shinawat told the court that he organized a protest on King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday to demand the right to bail for detained activists and not to defame the King. He said he was protesting the courts and the Prime Minister because he saw the denial of bail for monarchy reform activists Nutthanit Duangmusit and Netiporn Sanesangkhom as unjust, and because Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has said that the King did not want the royal defamation law to be used against the people.

Shinawat also explained that he shaved his head in front of the King’s portrait to send a message to King Vajiralongkorn that his people are being harassed, and that although he initially refused to take part in the judicial process, he allowed his lawyer to request bail for him because he saw that Nutthanit and Netiporn have been granted bail and so he felt that he could trust the justice system again.

However, Shinawat is now at risk of having his bail revoked. TLHR reported yesterday (29 August) that a request has been filed to have his bail revoked on a royal defamation charge relating to the 25 November 2020 protest in front of the Siam Commercial Bank headquarters. His bail revocation hearing took place this morning (30 August), and TLHR reported that the public prosecutor requested Shinawat’s bail revoked because of his speech during the 28 July 2022 protest. The Criminal Court will rule on whether to revoke his bail tomorrow (31 August).

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