Thanathorn calls on authorities to stop legally harassing dissidents

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Prominent opposition leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, has called on the Thai government on Monday to stop weaponizing the law to silence dissidents. 

“I am not concerned about the preparation for my lese-majeste charge, however, I am still very concerned over how Section 112 is being used,” Thanathorn, the former leader of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, and the current leader of the Progressive Movement group, said on Monday. 

“I believe the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha is using Section 112 to stop people from criticizing the government and silence people who disagree,” Thanathorn told reporters at the Criminal Court at a summons to hear an update on his royal defamation case.

Alongside Section 112, also known as “lese-majeste,” Thanathorn is facing sedition and cybercrime charges. He believes these legal charges are continuously being used as tools to prosecute people who disagree with the status quo.

Authorities alleged that he insulted the royal institution when he questioned the government’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout policies and the role of Siam Bioscience Group, a company owned by the Crown Property Bureau, during a Facebook Live session in January 2020. He was finally indicted in April of this year. 

The plaintiff was Apiwat Khanthong, chairman of the government-appointed committee. The court summoned Thanathorn to listen to eyewitness accounts before the next hearing is scheduled.

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights’ latest report for May 2022, at least 1,813 people in 1,074 cases have been prosecuted due to political assemblies and open expression between July 2020 and May 2022. The legal group says that at least 280 of those prosecuted were minors under the age of 18.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights report says that the majority of those charged allegedly violated the state of emergency decree at 1,452 people. The group added that 195 people faced Section 112, while 132 people were slapped with sedition charges, among others. 

“All of these prosecutions are designed to keep General Prayut in power,” Thanathorn said. “They are in exchange for the people’s freedom of expression, and this is not right.” 

Photo via the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights

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