Suspect had just turned 14 when alleged offence took place, making her the youngest on record
A teenage girl from Phitsanulok has been released on bail after being formally charged with royal defamation, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).
The alleged offence took place when the girl, who is now 16, was 14 years and one month old, making her the youngest person ever charged under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese-majeste law, the lawyers’ group said on Wednesday.
Police investigators said that the girl, identified only as “May”, used Facebook on the night of Nov 18, 2020 to post messages online making comments deemed insulting to His Majesty the King. A member of the public, Naengnoi Asavakittikorn, saw the messages and filed a complaint with police.
Police officers at the Muang Phitsanulok station issued a summons on June 4, 2021 for May to be questioned, but only as a witness, as a formal charge had not been drawn up yet.
She complied, but said later that the experience had been very upsetting. Subsequently, she said, Special Branch police officers visited her home, and she occasionally observed plainclothes police officers in front of the house and at her school. Finally she quit school and left Phitsanulok to live in Bangkok.
On Monday of this week she and her parents travelled from Bangkok to answer another summons at the Phitsanulok Provincial Police station. She denied all the allegations. Later that day, she appeared in Phitsanulok Juvenile and Family Court, where police applied to have her detained. However, they did not object to bail, which the court granted, noting she had complied with the summons. She was released on a surety of 20,000 baht put up by her parents.
According to TLHR, May is the 19th juvenile accused under Section 112 since 2020. Four of them were under 15 years old when the alleged offences were committed, and 15 were aged between 15 and 18.
The most high-profile case is that of a Bangkok teenager identified as Thanalop or “Yok”, who on Wednesday marked her 50th day in detention at a juvenile facility in Nakhon Pathom.
In her case, the Central Juvenile and Family Court issued a statement last week in response to criticism of her detention. It said that the girl’s mother had failed to appear for her bail, which led to her extended stay in the Ban Pranee Juvenile Vocational Training Centre for Girls.
The charges against Yok sparked a violent protest at the Samran Rat police station on May 10. Demonstrators spray-painted the stairs, walls and police vehicles and broke doors, and a subsequent clash with police officers led to nine arrests. Seven men and two women appeared in court on charges including damaging public property, and were subsequently released on bail.
According to data from TLHR to April 30 this year, 1,902 people have been prosecuted for political participation and expression since the beginning of the Free Youth pro-democracy protests in July 2020. At least 242 are facing lese-majeste charges and 130 have been charged with sedition.