BANGKOK — A criminal court on Friday acquitted six activist leaders who staged a rally demanding an election from the then-military regime in 2018. The court said their protest was an exercise of liberty guaranteed by the constitution.
The activists, who were among 50 people charged for the protest on Ratchadamnoen Avenue on Feb. 10, 2018, welcomed the court verdict and said they hope for a similar outcome in other criminal cases the are facing for their pro-democracy campaigns.
“I hope that three, four other cases against us will be decided under the same rationale, that our action was within the constitution,” protest leader Arnon Nampha said outside the courthouse.
A total of 50 people, including seven leaders and 43 demonstrators, were charged with criminal offenses for the rally, which called upon the junta to stage a timely election. The protest also targeted deputy junta chairman Prawit Wongsuwan’s luxury watch scandal. One of the leaders, Rangsiman Rome, was tried in a separated channel because of his legal status as an MP.
The protesters were accused of violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings, while the organizers faced the more serious charge of insurrection.
But in its verdict today, the court said their call for an election was an exercise of constitutional rights, and that their words at the rally did not incite violence.
The court also said the protesters’ verbal attack on Gen. Prawit was an “honest scrutiny and criticism” of public figures, which did not violate any law.
Arnon said court cases against dozens of demonstrators are still ongoing, and he hopes they will be decided in a similar manner.
Although the military government held an election on March 24, it did not grant amnesty to those prosecuted for pro-election campaigns under its regime.