Bail approved for student activist Benja

Bail approved for student activist Benja

Student facing royal insult charge can continue studies but must wear monitoring bracelet

Student activist Benja Apan demands the release of Ratsadon group core members at a rally at the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road on April 29, 2021. (Photo: Bangkok Post)
Student activist Benja Apan demands the release of Ratsadon group core members at a rally at the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road on April 29, 2021. (Photo: Bangkok Post)

The Criminal Court has approved bail for the temporary release of a 23-year-old Thammasat University student charged with royal insult, so that she can continue her studies.

Benja Apa will be required to wear an electronic monitoring (EM) device, according to the order issued by the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court on Friday.

Ms Benja, a member of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration activist group, is facing lese majeste charges for speeches at two rallies in Bangkok, at the Sino-Thai Tower building on Aug 10 last year and at the German embassy on Oct 26, 2020. 

Noraset Nanongtoom, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), said his client would be allowed to remain free until May, on condition that she not make any further references that tarnish the royal institution or participate in activities that may instigate public disorder.

She has to stay at home from 6pm to 6am every day and is banned from travelling abroad without the court’s permission.

The court granted bail after a surety of 100,000 baht was provided on the student’s behalf from the Ratsadonprasong Fund.

On Thursday, the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road granted her bail of 50,000 baht in another case that involved violation of the court’s jurisdiction on April 29 last year.

Ms Benja’s release followed that of Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, a key leader of the Ratsadon protest group facing multiple lese majeste charges, on Wednesday. TLHR said that decision had spared Ms Panusaya from being sent back to jail on remand, as her bail was scheduled to expire this week.

The bail conditions remain unchanged, except that she will be allowed to leave home between 6am and 6pm, instead of being subjected to a 24-hour curfew.

According to the most recent statistics compiled by TLHR through November 2021, at least 1,684 people in 957 cases are facing legal action for political activities since the “Free Youth” rally on July 18, 2020 that kicked off the youth-led protest movement.

The total includes at least 162 people and 166 charges filed under Section 112 of the Criminal Code covering lese majesty, and at least 115 people facing sedition charges under Section 116.

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