3 High School Activists Indicted for Staging Anti-Gov’t Rally

Khanaphot Yaemsanguansak, second from left, Laponpat Wangpaisit, and Benjamaporn Nivas at the Office of the Attorney General on Jan. 28, 2021.
Khanaphot Yaemsanguansak, second from left, Laponpat Wangpaisit, and Benjamaporn Nivas at the Office of the Attorney General on Jan. 28, 2021.

BANGKOK — Three high school activists, the youngest of them 16, were indicted Thursday for their roles in organizing an anti-government protest in October.

Leaders of the “Bad Students” education reform group Laponpat “Min” Wangpaisit, 18, Benjamaporn “Ploy” Nivas, 16, as well as activist Khanaphot “Phoom” Yaemsanguansak, 16, appeared at the Central Juvenile and Family Court on Thursday afternoon. They were charged with breaching the Emergency Decree’s ban on gatherings.

They were later released without having to post any bail, since they were not deemed a flight risk.

“We will deny all the allegations,” Laponpat said before entering the court. “We’re disappointed to see those in power trying to prosecute us, but we will continue to fight for justice. We hope other students will join our fight as well.”

The defendants stand accused of violating the Emergency Decree for organizing an anti-government rally at Ratchaprasong Intersection on Oct. 15. At least three other adults, which include Free People leader Tattep Ruangprapakitseree, were also charged with the same offense.

The government imposed the State of Severe Emergency at the time, permitting the authorities to ban public gatherings of more than five people. The special law, which also empowers authorities to censor media deemed to cause unrest, was revoked a few days later, on Oct. 22.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights attorney Koomklao Songsomboon, who represented the defendants, said the student activists are due to appear before the court again in April.

“The youths were exercising their rights under the Constitution. They were calling for an education reform, which shouldn’t be unlawful,” Koomklao said. “The prosecution of the youths is against the international convention on children’s rights as well.”

If found guilty, they face up to two years in juvenile detention center and a maximum fine of 40,000 baht.

“The prosecution is almost the same as adults,” Koomklao said.

At least six youths were charged for their roles in the protest. In December, a 16-year-old boy was charged with royal defamation for allegedly mocking the monarchy by wearing a crop-top.