Parit gets bail but vows to keep speaking out

Parit gets bail but vows to keep speaking out

'We have lifted the ceiling,' says student activist ahead of major rally on Sunday

Student activist Parit
Student activist Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak leaves the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Saturday after being released on bail. (Photo: Apichit Jinakul)

Student activist Parit Chiwarak has vowed to attend a major pro-democracy rally on Sunday — and to continue speaking out about reforming the monarchy — after being released on bail on Saturday.

The Thammasat University student made the comments outside the Criminal Court, where police had sought his detention on multiple charges including sedition.

Adisorn Chantharasuk, a Thammasat lecturer, used his position as a senior state official as a guarantee that the outspoken student activist would not flee.

The court approved his bail request on the same conditions as those imposed on human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa and student activist Panupong Jadnok last Saturday.

The condition is they need not put up cash upfront as a surety, but must agree not to commit the same offences they were charged with while being released. Violating those terms carries a penalty of 100,000 baht. 

Police say Mr Arnon and Mr Panupong have already breached the terms of their bail by continuing to speak out at rallies. They have petitioned the court to withdraw bail and a hearing is scheduled for Sept 3.

Mr Parit, widely known by his nickname "Penguin", told reporters on Saturday that the director-general of the court had agreed that he could take part in the rally planned for Sunday afternoon at Democracy Monument. The Free Youth and Free People groups have said they expect 10,000 people or more to attend.

“My arrest must not be wasted, people must talk more publicly about the monarchy,” he said after reciting a 10-point call for reform that was first delivered at a rally at the Rangsit campus of Thammasat University on Monday night.

“We have lifted the ceiling, there is no lowering it now.”

Monday’s rally marked a bold and potentially risky new step for the youth-led movement, which up to now has been pressing three main demands: dissolution of the House, a new constitution, and an end to state harassment of people who criticise the authorities.

Prime Minister Prayut chan-o-cha appealed for national unity earlier this week but also said some of the activists’ demands “went too far”.

Anek Laothamatas, the new minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, met with university administrators on Friday and asked them to ensure that their students refrained from commenting on the monarchy.

Mr Parit, 22, is facing a total of 10 charges in connection with the Free Youth rally held near the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Bangkok on July 18. (see list below)

Plainclothes police arrested him at 4.30pm on Friday at Maung Thong Thani in Nonthaburi. He was brought to the Samran Rat police station to acknowledge the charges. Dozens of supporters, including Mr Panupong, flocked to the station and stayed there in the rain throughout the night to monitor events.

Activists were looking to prevent a repeat of the events of the previous week, when Mr Arnon and Mr Panupong were taken to at least three police stations for unknown reasons. Many speculated it was an effort to avoid crowds building up in one place.

While Mr Parit was at the Samran Rat station, police from the Pathumwan station arrived to slap two more charges against him under the Covid-19 emergency decree. They related to an event in their jurisdiction, where he spoke out for justice for the missing exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit, and read the announcement of the Khana Rassadon group that overthrew the absolute monarchy in 1932.

On Saturday, Mr Parit was taken to the Criminal Court in a convoy of vans amid tight security. The area was barricaded and only one point of entry was open, forcing supporters to stay on the footpath.

At the inquiry, police told the court they needed to detain Mr Parit for 12 days because they had to question 15 more witnesses and wait for the results of his criminal records, which would not be available until after the 48 hours they had to legally detain him were up.

Mr Parit’s lawyer argued that police’s inability to wrap up the case within 48 hours was not a ground to detain his client, a former president of the Student Union of Thailand. As well, the witness list the police claimed to have was not known and criminal record checks are an internal affair of police in which a suspect cannot interfere.

After looking into the police detention request at around noon, the court informed Mr Parit that the court’s director had charged him with contempt of court when he came to the court to give moral support to Mr Arnon and Mr Panupong last Saturday. A hearing on this charge was scheduled for Sept 11.

Thai media also reported while Mr Parit was being taken to court at around 10am on Saturday, around 20 plainclothes police with a warrant searched his house near the Rangsit campus of Thammasat. After 30 minutes, they found nothing suspicious and no more evidence.

The 10 charges faced by Mr Parit in connection the July 18 rally are: 

  1. Sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code (up to 7 years in jail)
  2. Assembly of more than 10 which creates unrest under Section 215 of the Criminal Code (100,000-baht fine and/or 5 years) 
  3. Illegal assembly under the emergency decree on Covid-19 (40,000 baht and/or 2 years)
  4. Creating an unhygienic environment under Section 34 (6) of the Communicable Disease Act (20,000 baht)
  5. Obstructing a public space under Section 385 of the Criminal Code (5,000 baht)
  6. Obstructing traffic under Section 114 of the Land Transport Act (500 baht)
  7. Using loudspeakers without permission under the Advertising Control Act (200 baht)
  8. Putting objects on roads under Section 19 of the Cleanliness Act (10,000 baht)
  9. Using force hurting others under Section 391 of the Criminal Code (1 month or 10,000 baht)
  10. Defying officials’ orders under Section 368 of the Criminal Code (10 days or 5,000 baht) 

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