Prosecutors Postpone Indictment of 18 Pro-Democracy Activists

Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, left, and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, right, flash the three-finger salute as they walk into the Office of the Attorney General on Feb. 17, 2021.

BANGKOK — Public prosecutors on Wednesday delayed a decision on whether to indict pro-democracy activists on charges of royal defamation for leading a large protest last year.

Three protest leaders, which include Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, and Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa, were charged with lese majeste for their roles in the rally at Sanam Luang over the weekend of Sept. 19 and 20. Fifteen other activists were charged with sedition. The group was summoned to report themselves at the Office of the Attorney General this morning.

“There’s no indictment today. The suspects only signed a document to acknowledge their next appointment and were let go,” prosecutor spokesman Ittiporn Kaewtip said. “They will hear their indictment decision on March 8.”

Prosecutors said they need more time to analyze the case, which was only submitted by police this morning.

Prior to the announcement, many feared that an indictment could see the 18 activists jailed as they await their trial, landing a further blow to the movement. Four other protest leaders already had their bail denied earlier this week.

All were present at the attorney’s office this morning except Jatupat, who was on a campaign to march from Nakhon Ratchasima to Bangkok.

On Monday, the Court of Appeals rejected the bail requests submitted by the four protest organizers who were indicted for the same offenses earlier: Arnon Nampa, Parit “Penguin Chiwarak, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, and Patiwat “Bank” Saraiyam.

The court said in its ruling that their offenses “hurt the feelings of Thai loyal subjects” and they pose a flight risk. They are being held at the Bangkok Remand Prison.

Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul receives roses from her supporters on Feb. 17, 2021.

A few dozen supporters gathered in front of the Attorney General’s office earlier today before the activists met with prosecutors, giving them roses and embracing them. Panusaya broke into tears as she believed there was only a slim chance that she would walk free by the end of the day.

“I’m worried, but I’m prepared for it,” Panusaya said. “There’s 80 percent chance that I will face the same fate as the four protest leaders who were denied bail earlier. However, I still believe by the rest 20 percent that justice will be served.”

Panusaya said the prosecutors’ decision would not affect the anti-government protest scheduled to take place this Saturday. The venue is yet to be announced by the Ratsadon group.

“We want everyone to be courageous,” Panusaya added. “Please don’t give up. It’s not the end yet. There’s still a long way to go. Everyone is our hope.”

Panupong “Mike” Jadnok embraces his supporters on Feb. 17, 2021.

Another activist, Panupong Jadnok, appeared to be more cheerful.

“I don’t feel anything. Whatever will be, will be,” Panupong said. “I don’t know whether we will be free or not, but we will keep on fighting no matter if we are behind bars or not.”

Prajak Kongkirati, a political scientist at Thammasat University, said he is worried that the activists could end up being detained indefinitely while awaiting their trial, especially those who are still students.

“The trial hasn’t begun yet, we have to emphasize this,” Prajak, who was hoping to use his academic position as a bail surety, said. “All of them are innocent as of now until proven guilty, but the trial can drag for so long. This could go on for a decade. By denying the bail, they could be in prison for quite a long time.”