Thai lawyers call for access to 15-year-old detained for royal defamation

Nontarat Phaicharoen
Thai lawyers call for access to 15-year-old detained for royal defamation A sketch shows a girl identified as Yok who allegedly violated Thailand’s strict royal defamation law during an October 2022 rally when she was 14.
Courtesy of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights

Human rights activists on Wednesday called on Thai authorities to allow parents and lawyers to visit the youngest-ever royal-defamation suspect who has been held in custody since late March.

The 15-year-old girl, identified as Yok, was 14 when she allegedly violated the strict Lèse-Majesté law while speaking at an October 2022 anti-government rally in Bangkok, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

“Getting to know Yok, who is the youngest child charged under Lèse-Majesté, is to realize that this country is not what it seems to be,” said the text to a sketch of the girl provided by TLHR. Yok’s name is being withheld for security reasons.

The girl was arrested March 28 after filming a man as he allegedly spray painted graffiti calling for an end to Lèse-Majesté on a wall surrounding the royal palace. She was sent to a girls’ detention center outside Bangkok.

The staff at the Cross Cultural Foundation, which works on justice and rights, and lawyers at Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said their request for access to the center – Baan Pranee Children and Juvenile Training Centre for Girls – in Nakhon Pathom province, west of Bangkok, has not been honored.

“It’s appalling that a 15-year-old girl is under custody for royal defamation,” Prakaidao Phurksakasemsuk of the Cross Cultural Foundation told BenarNews. “Yesterday, we and the lawyers submitted a visit request at the center, but today when we went there again, the center said the request was not approved yet.”

Police in Bangkok’s Samran Rat station obtained an arrest warrant against Yok at the request of a royalist group after she participated in a rally to mark the bloody protest of Oct. 13, 1973. She was taken into custody last month despite having promised police she would report to them on April 9.

Prakaidao said lawyers were able to meet with Yok for only 10 minutes on March 30 even though she has the right to meet with legal counsel.

The juvenile center’s director had little to say about the situation because she reports to the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection.

Meanwhile, TLHR is not sure if Yok has been charged. Thai law requires that children between the ages of 12 and 15 are warned or sent to a rehabilitation center if found guilty of charges against them.

‘Unsettling reminder’

A Human Rights Watch researcher called for the visitation issue to be resolved.

“It is of concern that the relatives and lawyers cannot visit Yok,” Sunai Phasuk of the rights watchdog told BenarNews.

“Agencies with special privileges such as the national human rights commission and UNICEF should promptly handle the matter.”

Amnesty International said the child activist Yok had joined a peaceful protest back in October.

“This development is yet another unsettling reminder that Thai authorities continue to target children as they use the law on Lèse-Majesté to suppress peaceful dissent,” Amnesty’s Thailand Researcher Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong said in a statement.

“Thai authorities must drop all charges against individuals under laws inconsistent with international human rights law and standards. They must also refrain from arresting and holding peaceful protesters in pre-trial detention.”

Pro-democracy protests in Thailand began in July 2020 led by young adults who have been calling for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha to resign, the constitution to be rewritten and the monarchy to be reformed.

In November of that year, Prayuth warned protesters that the government would enforce “all pertaining laws” including Lèse-Majesté, which carries a prison term of up to 15 years.

As of the end of March, at least 238 people, including 18 who are younger than 18, were prosecuted under Lèse-Majesté, TLHR said.  


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