Bangkok, Nov 9 (EFE).- Dozens of activists demonstrated at Thailand’s Ministry of Justice in Bangkok on Thursday to demand the release of political prisoners.
Dressed in mock prison uniforms and chains, the protesters peacefully entered the government compound for a series of speeches and a sit-in, and carried signs also demanding the right to bail and the abolition of Article 112 of the Thai criminal code – better known as the lèse majesté law.
“They are people who are victims of … injustices,” said Tantawan Tuatulanon of those detained, and who in March spent 52 days on hunger strike to demand bail for fellow political prisoners awaiting trial.
Between Nov. 30, 2021 and Oct. 30, 2023, Thai courts delivered verdicts in cases involving 100 people charged with lèse majesté, with 79 convicted and the longest sentence 28 years in prison, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).
At least 16 people charged with lèse-majesté are being held in prison, including one awaiting trial, 10 appealing their cases and three serving prison sentences, TLHR said. Two children are being held at the Children Observation and Protection Center.
Participants in Thursday’s small protest also met briefly with Justice Minister Tawee Sodsong, who listened to the activists’ demands in the lobby of the building.
The majority of those accused of lese majeste were prosecuted for their participation in pro-democracy demonstrations, especially the large rallies in mid-2020, and for their political activism on the streets or on the internet.
At least 259 people, 20 of whom are under 18 years of age, have been charged under Article 112 between Nov. 24, 2020 and Oct. 27, 2023.
Critics say the lèse majesté law, which carries a prison term of 3-15 years for anyone deemed to have defamed, insulted or threatened members of the Thai monarchy, is often used as a political tool to quash dissent.
The law has been criticized by the United Nations due to its “increasingly severe use” and its “effect of chilling freedom of expression and further restricting civic space and the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms” in the country. EFE