Thai poet and human rights lawyer Arnon Nampha was arrested and charged with sedition for his participation in pro-democracy protests in Bangkok.
This statement was originally published on pen-international.org on 13 November 2020.
On 28 October 2020, the Court of Appeal in Thailand denied bail to detained poet and human rights lawyer Arnon Nampha for his participation in Bangkok protests.
Freemuse and PEN International call for the release of the poet and for the charges brought against him to be immediately dropped. We further urge Thai authorities to respect and guarantee the rights of its citizens to peaceful assembly and to express themselves freely.
“The detention and charges brought against Arnon Nampha are in clear violation of his right to peaceful protest, assembly and free speech protected by Thailand’s obligation under Article 21 of the ICCPR,” said Dr Srirak Plipat, Freemuse Executive Director. “We demand that the Thai authorities release Arnon Nampha from detention and drop all of the charges brought against him.”
In response to Arnon’s detention, Ross Holder, PEN International’s Asia/ Pacific Regional Programme Coordinator, said:
“Arnon’s ongoing persecution by the Thai authorities in retaliation for his peaceful expression provides a vivid illustration of the alarming erosion of basic human rights norms in Thailand. As the widespread government repression of poets, writers and other peaceful activists has shown, the punitive use of legislation to stifle free expression runs contrary to the Thai government’s responsibility to protect its citizens from harm, and must be immediately repealed to meet Thailand’s international human rights obligations.”
Nampha was charged with sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code of Thailand, in relation to his participation in anti-government protests that took place on 19 and 20 September 2020 in Bangkok. If convicted, the artist faces up to seven years of imprisonment.
Protests from September 2020 are part of the student-led movement appearing in Thailand since February 2020. The protesters expressed their concerns, among others, over the diminishing of democratic freedoms in Thailand and the existence of the lèse-majesté law, crimes which are punishable with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and used to silence dissidents of the monarchy.
The artist was previously arrested in August for his peaceful participation in a protest, during which he delivered a speech calling for abandoning the controversial lèse-majesté laws and criticised monarchy’s power in Thailand.
Arnon Nampha is a poet and human rights lawyer who works with the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) providing legal assistance to alleged violators of the lèse-majesté law and human rights defenders who are targeted by the authorities.
PEN International raised concerns in a recent statement and called for all charges against peaceful demonstrators in Thailand to be dropped, highlighting the ongoing issue of silencing the dissident voices in Thailand.