Girl, 15, Released, but Section 112 Still Looms Over Government Formation

Yok, a 15-year-old teenager prosecuted under Section 112, finally returned to school in Bangkok on 19 May 2023 to report to continue her studies after being released from Ban Praani Training Centre for Children and Young Women, Sampran District, Nakhon Pathom Province on May 18. Her school has been open for the new semester for 3 days.

Yok, who has been politically active since she was 14, had been detained for 51 days on 28 March after being arrested along with another artist who had painted the Grand Palace wall with the anarchist symbol and the letter 112.

The picture of a young girl showing a red rash on her back while detained, with a quote from Yok in the interview saying, ‘Has it come to the point that I deserve to be detained like this for 51 days?’ goes viral as an online posting, sparking criticism.

The unexpected release of Yok following the court’s decision to reject the police request for her continued detention coincides with the formation of the coalition government involving the Move Forward party and other parties with a total of 9 parties and 314 MPs.

Section 112 has become a tricky condition for the formation of the government, including gathering support from the remaining political parties and MPs to secure Mr Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of the Move Forward Party, with a total of 376 votes out of 500 seats in both houses.

Several parties and individuals have called for the deletion of the amendment to Section 112 from the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to form the government. Some Conservative MPs and Senators have stated that they will not support Pita if plans to amend section 112 remain.

Regardless of how the Move Forward Party chooses to deal with Section 112, it is likely to be criticised from both sides — the faction that wants legislative change and the faction that opposes any change.

Previously, in April 2018, ahead of the 2019 general election, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, leaders of the now-defunct Future Forward Party, had announced that they would not make amending Section 112 a priority for their party. This decision has disappointed human rights groups, as they had hoped for a different stance from the party.

FILE Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Pita Limjaroenrat and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul

The social movement demanding the amendment of Section 112 became evident in early 2012 during the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. It became known as the “Campaign for the Amendment of Section 112” and consisted of groups of academics, legal experts, historians, social scientists and social activists.

They opened a petition for public support and Charnvit Kasetsiri, the former rector of Thammasat University, represented them in handing over a list of 39,185 signatures to parliament. However, the legislative caucus did not respond and the campaign ended on  May 29, 2012.

The criminal law provision, section 112, is seen as a political tool that allows individuals to be targeted and charged, with severe penalties. The law states: “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir to the throne or regent shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of three to fifteen years.