After 10 months of protests, in which Thai people took to the streets to call for reform of the monarchy and the political system, more than 600 activists have been arrested and charged for their political expression. In 2021 alone, at least 30 people have been detained on charges of sedition or royal defamation. For months, most were denied bail while awaiting trial.
But this month, the Thai Criminal Court started granting bail to 24 of the detained activists. However, most of the activists were only released on the condition that they do not participate in activities that might cause public disorder or damage the monarchy. This means they cannot continue expressing their political opinions. Meanwhile, seven activists remain in detention, with several now testing positive for COVID-19 due to the recent outbreaks in prisons across the country. A question remains: Is it worth getting out of jail when you cannot speak freely?
On this week’s episode of Southeast Asia Dispatches, Yiamyut Suthichaya, assistant editor for Prachatai English, speaks to Sirikan Charoensiri from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights about the tension between the Thai constitution’s presumption of innocence and the Criminal Court’s criminalisation of political speech.
This episode is a collaboration between New Naratif and Prachatai, an independent non-profit online newspaper in Thailand. You can find out more about how to support Prachatai at prachatai.com/support.