Activist freed after almost four years

Activist freed after almost four years

Thanet Anantawong (centre) is escorted to the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok on Dec 18, 2015 for alleged involvement in the ‘corruption diagram’ involving Rajabhakti Park. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Thanet Anantawong (centre) is escorted to the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok on Dec 18, 2015 for alleged involvement in the ‘corruption diagram’ involving Rajabhakti Park. (Bangkok Post file photo)

An activist has been acquitted of national security and computer crime charges after being detained for almost four years.

The Criminal Court on Thursday morning handed down the ruling on the case in which Thanet Anantawong had been charged for making five Facebook posts in 2015 criticising the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order and the army.

The posts criticised late Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanon in 2015 and the army for the death in custody of Suriyan "Mor Yong" Sucharitpolwong and alleged corruption at army-run Rajabhakti Park. Some of them also encouraged people to float kratong to expel dictatorship and to wear red shirts to the park as an act of protest.

The plaintiff claimed the posts caused people to dislike the government, leading to protests to topple it.   

The Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), who handled the case for the activist, said the court reasoned that although Mr Thanet had different views from those in power at the time, he had acted constitutionally.

“The court believes his expression of opinions was not intended to stir up sedition or disobedience among people to the extent it could cause unrest in the kingdom or law violations. It was legitimate free speech. Since the witnesses and evidence of the plaintiff do not carry sufficient weight to warrant a guilty verdict, we’ve dismissed the charges,” the TLHR quoted the court as saying on Thursday.

Mr Thanet will be released from the Bangkok Remand Prison in Bangkok on Thursday evening.

It has been 4½ years since Mr Thanet was charged and he was jailed for three years and 10 months, or 1,396 days, including for the offence of boarding a train to the Rajabhak Park in Hua Hin district, Prachuap Khiri Khan province, as a symbolic gesture against alleged corruption in the park’s funding by the army.

His case had been tried in the military court but only three witnesses were heard. Since he failed to report himself when summoned but changed his mind later, he was denied bail.

The case was transferred to a civilian court 2019 and the transition delayed the trial by almost a year. The hearing of all witnessed finally ended in May this year.

While detained, he lost his father and was not allowed to get out to meet him before he died.

Mr Thanet, 30, is from Nong Khayang district, Uthai Thani province. He lost his mother when he was eight and worked as a labourer for several years like his father. After competing Prathom 6, he worked as a hire- motorcycle rider in Bangkok. He joined the red-shirt protests in 2010 and was jailed for a year back then for breaking the emergency law at the time.

After the 2014 military coup, he continued to join anti-coup movements, especially activities led by the Democracy Study group led by Sirawich “Ja New” Seritiwat.


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