Ahead of the expected verdict on Thursday (20 July) against Noppasin ‘Sainam’ Treelayapewat, a young activist who faces up to 15 years imprisonment, accused of lèse-majesté – or insulting the monarchy – for taking part in a mock fashion show when he was 16 years old, Amnesty International’s Regional Researcher for Thailand Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong said:
“Sainam should not be facing any charges or punishment, yet these proceedings could result in years of his freedom stolen, simply for taking part in a satirical fashion show during a peaceful protest when he was under 18 years old. The multiple criminal charges against Sainam yet again highlight how Thai authorities are robbing many children of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“The Thai authorities must drop the charges against Sainam immediately and unconditionally, along with over a hundred young people who are facing separate criminal charges for their involvement in peaceful protests.”
Amnesty International’s report, ‘We Are Reclaiming Our Future’, published in February 2023, documented how authorities failed to guarantee the safety of many children during protests and cases in which violent arrests and unlawful detention put child protesters’ physical and mental integrity at risk.
“Children and young people in Thailand continue to risk severe repercussions for voicing their views. This includes the 286 children who recently faced criminal charges, official intimidation and surveillance by the authorities, as well as unnecessary and excessive use of force by the police when protesting.
“As a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Thailand must ensure that children are free to express themselves through peaceful protests in a safe and enabling environment.”
On 29 October 2020, pro-democracy protesters gathered around Bangkok’s Silom Road to call for political reforms. As part of the demonstration, protestors held the ‘People’s Runway’, a mock fashion show aimed to present a satirical take on the role of the monarchy in Thailand. Noppasin ‘Sainam’ Treelayapewat was one of the models who walked the runway in a black crop-top.
Sainam faces various charges for taking part in the satirical runway, including lèse-majesté under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. Under this law, anyone convicted of defaming, insulting or threatening the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent may be given a jail term from three to 15 years. The other charges Sainam is facing includes the violation of the now-defunct Emergency Decree, Communicable Diseases Act, Public Assembly Act, and the Advertisement by Using Sound Amplifiers Control Act.
On 12 September 2022, the Bangkok Criminal Court convicted 23-year-old activist Jatuphon ‘Niw’ Saeung, who took part in the same fashion show, sentencing her to two years imprisonment for ‘insulting the monarchy’. If the Court also finds Sainam guilty, he will be the second person convicted for taking part in this parody fashion show.
Between 1 January 2020 and 11 July 2023, local rights group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported at least 286 children, including Sainam, have faced criminal charges for their involvement in peaceful protests. At least 20 of them have been charged under the lèse-majesté law.
Amnesty International urges Thai authorities to uphold their duty under international law to respect, protect and promote the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression by dropping charges under this provision against anyone peacefully exercising their rights, including in protest.