2 out of 17 people were fined for 5,000 Baht due to not notifying prior to the activity in case of the march opposing the construction of coal-fired power plant.


On 27 December 2018, at 9.00 a.m. the Songkhla Provincial Court scheduled to hear verdict in case of  17 Thepa villagers violating the Public Assembly Act 2015, Public Highway Act article 38, Land Traffic Act article 108, Criminal Code article.


At 9.30 a.m. all defendants came to the Court along with Thepa villagers, academics, and journalists at least 50 people to hear the verdict. Today, the Songkhla Provincial Court prepared 2 rooms for hearing the verdict which were the room 309 for the 17 defendants and lawyers and the room 209 to show video conference from the room 309 for Thepa villagers and others.


At 10.10 a.m. the Court called each defendant’s name and asked Netipong, the defendant, No. 8 that whether he was punished according to the red case No. 4762/2018 and was imprisoned for 6 months. Netipong accepted it, but actually, it was 11-month imprisonment. The public prosecutor asked the Court for counting the amount of Nethipong’s punishment further from this case. In the last part of accusation identified that Nethipong had previous conviction at the Na Thawi provincial Court and received 6-month punishment but 2-year probation. However, during probation, Nethipong committed the crime intentionally; thus the public prosecutor imposed punishment further from the red case No. 4762/2018 and this case as well.


Afterwards, the Court explained that the verdict accounted for 49 pages which divided into the charge, the testimony, the details of witness examination for both defendants and plaintiffs, and the Court’s consideration. The Court read the charge and consideration parts only.


For the Court’s consideration, it identified that on 23 November 2017, the Facebook page named “ Stop Songkhla coal-fired power plant ” encouraged Thepa villagers to rally and to send letter toward Gen. Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the head of NCPO and the Prime Minister, having an appointment of cabinet conference at Muang District, Songkhla Province. Before moving toward Muang District, Songkhla Province, at 18.00 p.m. the police told the protesters to notify the public assembly according to the Public Assembly Act. Later on, the protesters stayed overnight at Salaudin Mosque. Meanwhile, Ekkachai, the defendant No. 1, submitted an application  to hold the public assembly and submitted an application for extension of the notification period to the Songkhla Police Chief. However, the Songkhla Police Chief did not allow and ordered to revoke the public assembly.


Later on, villagers marched to Muang District, Songkhla Province. When they reached at the gate 2 of Songkhla Rajabhat University, they encountered a company of officers, restricting a crowd by setting barrier on road which was the leftmost lane next to the footpath and opening only right lane, only one path. Afterwards, the protesters went through barrier for having lunch and were arrested at Samila beach. The defendants No. 1-15 and No. 17 were arrested first, and the defendant No.16 were charged later on. There were following points to consider.


The first point was that whether Ekkachai, Rungreung, Patiharn, and Direk, the defendants No. 1-4, were promoters and guilty as they did not notify about the public assembly according to the Public Assembly Act. First of all, the Court had to examine that this rally was counted as a public assembly or not. According to Article 4 of the Public Assembly Act, it prescribed that a “Public assembly” means an assembly of individuals in public place so as to express their common petition, support, opposition or opinion on any matter to the public and any individual is able to attend such assembly freely irrespective of whether such assembly composing of public procession or marching. This rally had expression of villagers’ common petition and composed of procession or marching; therefore, this rally was the public assembly.


Whether Ekkachai, Rungreung, Patiharn, and Direk, the defendants No. 1-4, were promoters. During attestation, Ekkachai, the defendant No.1 and Patiharn the defendant No. 3 communicated and negotiated with authorities. Also, Ekkachai was the one who notified the public assembly and submitted an application for extension of the public assembly as well.  Thus, Ekkachai and Patiharn were promoters whereas Rungreung, the defendant No.2 and Direk, the defendant No.4 did not appear the fact that the 2 defendants were promoters, but they were promoters according to the definition of the Public Assembly Act. 

After having examined, Ekkachai, the defendant No.1 and Patiharn, the defendant No.3, were guilty according to Article 10 Paragraph 1 and Article 12 Paragraph 1 as not notifying the public assembly prior to the activity at least 24 hours and not submitting an application for extension, according to the Public Assembly Act, which each of them must be fined 5,000 Baht. 


The second point was that the 17 defendants possessed long wooden sticks that were one meter in length and 2 centimeters in circumference. The sticks also had sharp tips and flags on top. It was alleged that the defendants intentionally took the sticks into public areas with the purpose of injuring public officials. The fact was that the 17 defendants possessed wooden sticks which were a symbol of marching. The police seized all 34 wooden sticks and considered that the wooden sticks were not weapons. If they were weapons, it must have intention to harm as well, so this charge was dismissed.


The third point was that Ekkachai, Rungreung, Patiharn, and Direk, the defendants No. 1-4, who were promoters, did not oversee the public assembly properly, which caused the problems to people who used public highway. Besides, the participants violated the Public Assembly Act, plus refusing to cooperate with the police who were in charge of the public assembly according to the Public Assembly Act. Furthermore, the 17 defendants caused inconvenience for people who used traffic on Songkhla-Na Thawi, and they possessed weapons into the public area without permission, including of impeding the performance of duties.  


However, from the Court’s examination, Ekkachai, the defendant No.1 and Partiharn the defendant No.3 were only promoters; thus the Court had to consider that whether both defendants were guilty according to the charge. The fact was that the rally opposing the coal-fired power plant was a form of freedom expression that the 17 defendants performed peacefully without weapons. Therefore, it was the legitimate public assembly according to the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand of 2017. There were several demands which protesters came out and protest peacefully without damages. It did not appear that the defendants did not cooperate with authorities; thus, they were not guilty according to this charge.   


The fourth point was that the 17 defendants blocked Songkhla- Na Thawi Road together by gathering and moving other protesters into a traffic area where the protesters sat and laid down in the streets. Their actions might cause danger or damage to vehicles without permission from a traffic officer.


Adirek  Jarojwang, a witness for plaintiff, testified that the protesters marched in one row on the side of road whereas Pol.Col Praphat Srianant, the Deputy Commander of Songkhla Provincial Police, Lt.Col Uthit Anantananon, Deputy Commander of the 42nd Military Circle,   Pol.Capt. Tharaphong Yenjai, Pol.Cpl. Kraisang Kanlak, Pol.Snr.Sgt.Maj Sirichai Numnaun, Pol.Snr.Sgt.Maj Decha Kaewamphon were eyewitnesses and testified in a similar way. When the protesters marched until the Songkhla Ratchubat University, the police had blocked on the leftmost side of the road near footpath earlier, opening only the right lane to let cars through. When there was the obstruction which the protesters cannot march further, they therefore sat and laid down. Apart from this, no witness can identify that the protester’s action caused danger or damage to vehicles; therefore, this charge was dismissed.


The fifth point was that all 17 defendants together impeded performance of duties who were in charge of the public assembly. The witness for the plaintiff testified that someone pushed and used a wooden stick to hit authorities. Therefore, 4 authorities were little injured. However, all witnesses did not know who used wooden stick to hit the authorities.
Based on the fact that at that time, there were protesters at least 50 people, and if some of them pushed authorities, it did not mean other protesters had intention to harm. Therefore it did not make any sense. Furthermore, before this incident happened, the protesters had attempted to negotiate with officers to let them have meal which they had planned earlier. However, it failed , and villagers waited until the midday which caused resentment toward the authorities which led to harm the authorities finally. 


Although before having pushed each other, the protesters used an amplifier to communicate, it was just to increase morale which was not a sedition to attack authorities. Thus, it still had doubt that the defendants really impeded and used weapons to attack authorities or not. Thus, it shall give defendants the benefit of doubt according to Article 127 Paragraph 2 of the Criminal Court Procedure Code, but 34 wooden sticks would be seized.


The Court sentenced Ekkachai, the defendant No. 1, and Partiharn, the defendant No.3, were guilty according to Article 10 Paragraph 1 and Article 12 Paragraph 1 as not notifying the authority at least twenty four hours prior to begin that public assembly and failing to submit extension of the notification under the Public Assembly Act. Therefore, they shall be fined 5,000 Baht for each person, and other charges were dismissed. After having finished all judicial process, Ekkachai, the defendant No.1, and Partiharn, the defendant No.3 paid fine to the Court and received 1,000 Baht back from being imprisoned during the investigation for 2 days, 500 Baht per day.

The reason of this case happened owing to the 4-day Thepa rally from Thepa District, Songkhla Province, to Muang District. Thepa villagers would like to communicate and submit their letter to Gen. Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the head of NCPO, on 28 November 2017. However, on 27 November 2017, authorities dispersed the crowd and arrested 16 villagers who participated in this activity. One of them was a 16 year-old teenager after that there was a prosecution to another person, 17 people in total.

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