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FORUM-ASIA applauds the decision to acquit Thai pro-democracy activists of 2020 protest charges

BANGKOK, THAILAND — The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) has applauded the recent acquittal of five Thai pro-democracy activists, including a minor, who were charged with blocking traffic during 2020 pro-democracy demonstrations in Bangkok.

The Criminal Court dismissed the charges against Ekachai Hongkangwan, Boonkueanun Paothong, Suranat Paenprasert, and two others on 28 June.

The activists were accused of assaulting the liberty of the Queen by obstructing a royal motorcade.

The court found that the fault lay with the police for failing to clear the roads adequately or provide sufficient notice of the royal procession to protestors. Once protestors became aware of the motorcade, they allowed it to pass through without incident.

The court noted that the royal procession’s route was never announced and that the police vehicles did not indicate the royal route.

As such, the evidence could not conclusively prove that the five defendants deliberately obstructed the royal procession.

The decision also found that the police, not the defendants, had obstructed public roads and traffic by parking vans to block the road.

The defendants were therefore deemed not guilty of assassinating the liberty of the queen and assembling by force causing chaos in the country under the respective sections of the Criminal Code.

Despite the favourable verdict, FORUM-ASIA expressed concern over the judicial harassment still faced by many human rights defenders in Thailand.

As of May 2023, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that at least 1,914 individuals faced prosecution resulting from their participation in pro-democracy demonstrations from 2020 to 2023.

FORUM-ASIA asserts that these cases should have never been subjected to prosecution in the first place.

It further calls upon Thai authorities to uphold people’s fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly, without fear of reprisals.

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