The Thai royal family is protected from control by one of the strictest defamation laws in the world, according to which criticizing or insulting the king, queen or obvious heir is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison for each census.
Noraset, a member of Thai human rights lawyers, said in a Facebook post that the five turned themselves in to police in response to a summons, accusing them of violating the law lese majeste
“The allegation is derived from expressing their views,” he said.
In addition, three others – Tattep Ruangprakitseri, Pacaravali Tanakvitvibulpon and Jutatip Sirikhan – have also been summoned on charges of lese majeste and must report to police by December 7th.
The revival of the law comes as protesters head to an army barracks on Sunday in defiance of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s personal control over some army units. Protesters also gathered around the headquarters of Siam’s commercial bank in Bangkok last Wednesday to unite against the transfer of royal assets to Vajiralongkorn’s personal purse.
The protesters called for the monarch to be accountable to the constitution, limit the king’s powers and demand transparency regarding his finances.
Outside the Chanasongkram police station on Monday, prominent activist Parit said: “If the monarchy showed any signs of listening to the people, they would think the monarchy was open. But if the monarchy responded by using section 112 (lese majeste) to silence people , it only shows the Thai and international community that the Thai monarchy is afraid of the truth. “
Lese majeste fees show a thinning of patience
Despite recent calls for reform of the monarchy, no charges of magnificence have been filed since March 2018. Prayut said in June that the law was no longer enforced at the request of the king.
Prayut then said the situation had not escalated and called on the government to “step up” measures and use “all applicable laws” against protesters who violate the law. The call for leading pro-democracy activists shows that the authorities have exhausted their patience with a protest movement that has not been delayed by arrests and escalating police action.
“The reintroduction of the lese majeste law signals the strengthening of the royalist establishment’s ‘rollist’, manipulating all available legal instruments backed by a partial judiciary to quell what is in practice an uprising led by younger Thais,” he said. Titinan Pongsudhirak, political scientist and director of the Institute for Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University.
“Their strategy is to use oppressive laws as a tight shirt to keep protest leaders tied up and thus behead the protest movement to reform the monarchy with a new constitution.”
Previously, lese majeste was increasingly used as a political tool, as ordinary Thai citizens – as well as the government – could bring charges on behalf of the king. There are now fears that complaints against protesters will become more frequent.
According to Titinan, the law could “provide legal weapons to ultra-royalists to charge those who call for reform of the monarchy.”
The protesters are targeting King’s finances
They accused the monarchy of giving legitimacy to military rulers in exchange for their firm support for the monarchy. There have been 13 successful military coups since 1932, the most recent being when the current prime minister and former army chief, Prayut, took power in 2014.
In addition to consolidating his power, protesters examined the king’s financial behavior as the country struggled with the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
Shares of various Thai conglomerates – including Siam Commercial Bank and the public company Siam Cement – were listed on behalf of the king. According to the Thai Stock Exchange, Vajiralongkorn is the largest shareholder in SCB, holding nearly 800 million shares worth approximately $ 2.3 billion at current exchange rates.
Protesters called for an investigation into the king’s financial activities and for greater transparency and public oversight of the royal budget.
Sunay Fasuk, a senior researcher in Thailand at Human Rights Watch, said the revival of lese majeste “is a clear message that these issues will not be tolerated and there will be no compromise with demands.”
“As anti-democracy protesters break a long-standing taboo that forbids the Thai people from criticizing and challenging the monarchy, the state’s reactions are getting harsher and harsher, sending the country even more upset,” he said.
Thai human rights lawyers say at least 175 people were prosecuted for participating in political protests between July 18 and November 13. Many face illegal punishments for rallies, but some protest leaders have been charged with insurrection, which takes a maximum of seven years in prison.
Titinan said lese majeste fees are unlikely to take the wind off the roads.
“The student-led protest movement is obviously horizontal, not easy to quell from above. So the protesters are likely to continue their frustrated frustration with Thailand’s outdated political system, which has led the country to economic stagnation,” he said.