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Activist wins permission from Criminal Court to travel abroad

Pro-democracy activist Rawisara Eksakul has been granted permission to leave Thailand to study in Germany despite facing a royal defamation charge in connection with a rally outside the German embassy in Bangkok in 2020.

The South Bangkok Criminal Court issued the ruling on Friday, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, which noted that it was Ms Rawisara’s seventh appeal for authorisation to depart the country to pursue her master’s degree.

The court was told that Ms Rawisara holds a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service, which is set to lapse if she fails to begin her classes by April 4.

After over four hours of deliberation, the court issued an order permitting her to travel abroad on condition that she must not engage in any further activities that would affect the monarchy, whether in Thailand or Germany.

Her father, sister and an instructor of Chulalongkorn University were further tasked with overseeing her compliance with the conditions.

Ms Rawisara is among 12 individuals, including pro-democracy activist Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon, indicted on charges of lese majeste after they engaged in a rally outside the German embassy in Bangkok on Oct 26, 2020. Leaders of the protest read statements in Thai, English and German calling for Berlin to look into the activities of His Majesty the King.

After accepting the charge, the court later granted the rally leaders bail on a surety of 200,000 baht each on condition that they must not leave the country without permission.

The youth-led movement that began in mid-2020 has frequently touched on the sensitive subject of reform of the monarchy, and many of its leaders are now facing charges under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majeste law. Conviction can carry a jail term of up to 15 years per charge. 

According to statistics compiled by TLHR, at least 127 people were facing lese majeste charges as of the end of 2021. Another 55 were facing charges of sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code.

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