Pattaya court dismisses 2018 case against anti-government protestors

Sirawit “Ja Niew” Serithiwat, Wanchalerm Kunsean, Sasawat Kumneeyawanit, and eight other protestors are relieved after hearing to the Appeals Court judgment.

A Pattaya appeals court dismissed charges against 11 anti-junta activists who staged a 2018 rally in Pattaya calling for new elections but fined the rally organizer 3,000 baht.

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Reversing a Criminal Court conviction for violating a directive against political gatherings issued by the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order, which staged the 2014 military coup and was still in power in March 2018, the Pattaya Provincial Appeals Court on Oct. 1 only hit protest leader Sirawit “Ja Niew” Serithiwat with holding an assembly without a proper license.

The Appeals Court changed the Civil Court ruling but fined Sirawit “Ja Niew” Serithiwat 3000 baht for holding an assembly without a proper license.

Sirawit, then a core member of the New Democracy Group, and rally speakers Wanchaloem Khunsaen and Chidapha Thanahatthachai staged the “on tour” rally under Sirawit’s Start-Up People movement on Pattaya Beach with fewer than 100 people attending.

Sirawit insisted at the time he did notify Pattaya police of the gathering by telephone.

The defendants faced fines of to 10,000 baht and six months in jail, but the Appeals Court dismissed the charges against 11 protestors, including Wanchaloem. A 12th protestor charged at the time has since died.

The court assigned Sirawit the role of instigator and fined him 3,000 baht.

Sirawit grudgingly accepted the fine and decision, but continued to deny the group had done anything wrong. Wanchaloem and Sasawat Kumneeyawanit had already paid 3,000-baht fines after the Criminal Court ruling and will receive refunds.

Sirawit said the government, still propped up by the military, cannot stop the social movement gaining momentum in Thailand fueled by people demanding democracy. He said his group would join with the larger student-led pro-democracy movement.