Thai Student Activists Petition Against Contempt of Court Charges
Updated: Mar 13, 2022
On May 22, 2017, Jatuphat "Pai" Boonpattararaksa, a law student and key member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM), was taken to the Military Court of Khon Kaen Province for trial.
The trial was on a case in which Jatuphat and seven other democracy activists were indicted for violating the National Council for Peace and Order's (NCPO) Order No. 3/2015, which forbids political gatherings of five or more people, after participating in a peaceful gathering to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état on May 22, 2015.
Before the trial began, Jatuphat reunited with his family who presented him the 2017 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. His family had travelled on Jatuphat's behalf to Gwangju, South Korea to attend the award ceremony, which was held between May 16-18, because the Provincial Court of Khon Kaen had denied his bail request.
The award commemorates the Democratic Uprising, or the Gwangju Uprising, of 18 May 1980, when Gwangju citizens battled the Chun Doo-hwan dictatorship of South Korea. Estimates suggest that up to 606 people may have died during the crackdown at the hands of government troops.
“The 2017 Gwangju Award Committee for Human Rights admires the bravery and love of justice [of Jatuphat] who fights against dictatorship and violation of human rights. Your struggle helps igniting the interest in politics among young people,” reads the statement from the award committee.
Jatuphat is accused of violating the lèse majesté law for sharing on his Facebook account a controversial biography of King Vajiralongkorn published by BBC Thai. He is the first person to be arrested for lèse majesté under the reign of the new king.
Shortly after he was arrested for lèse majesté on December 3, 2016, the court released him on bail. However, his bail was revoked on December 22 after he posted a satirical message mocking the authorities on his Facebook account. The message read, “Economy is poor but they (authorities) took my money for bail.”
Despite the fact that more than 2,000 people shared the same article on Facebook and millions read it, Jatuphat was the only one arrested for lèse majesté.
The court refuses to release him on bail, reasoning that the activist mocked the authority of the state without fearing the law and is also battling other charges for violating the Public Referendum Act and the junta’s political gathering ban with his previous political activities.
The next trial on Jatuphat's case will be held at Khon Kaen Military Court on July 27, 2017.