The arrests came after Queen Sutida’s motorcade passed protesters in Bangkok on Wednesday, with video showing the crowd shouting and raising a provocative three-finger salute inspired by the Hunger Games movie franchise. Police had spotted repel protesters, while car that ferried and youngest son of King Maha Vadzhiralongkorn, Prince Dipangkorn slowly past them.
Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothong and Ekachai Hongkangwan will be charged under section 110 of the Thai Penal Code, according to Thai human rights lawyers.
Those convicted under Section 110 face up to 16 years of maximum life imprisonment for violence or attempted violence against the queen, heir or regent. If the actions are considered likely to endanger the queen̵
Poonsuk Poonsulcharoen, a Thai human rights lawyer, said the couple is believed to face charges that carry a maximum life sentence.
Ekachai was arrested while on his way to the Dusit police station in Bangkok to surrender, and Bunkuanun was detained after he surrendered to police, a group of lawyers said.
The decree, which went into effect in the Thai capital, bans the gathering of more than five people and includes a national ban on publishing and broadcasting news and information – including online – that is causing fear among the public.
In a mass provocative show, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Bangkok for a second night on Thursday. Authorities warned through a loudspeaker that the protesters were violating the ordinance, taking pictures and could be persecuted and arrested. But crowds of protesters gathered at the Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok’s mall, chanting, mocking police and waving lights from their cell phones.
The protests are expected to continue over the weekend.
Student-led demonstrations and marches, which have been going on in Thailand since July, have escalated in recent weeks. Protesters are calling for a new constitution, the dissolution of parliament and the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, as well as an end to intimidation of government critics.
An increasingly central demand is the reform of the country’s monarchy in order to limit the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn and to ensure a true constitutional monarch in a democratic system.
Prime Minister Prayut responded to calls for his removal on Friday, saying: “I will not give up.”
At a press conference after a special cabinet meeting, Prayut said the cabinet had approved the emergency decree and could remain in place for up to 30 days.
“It (the decree) will only be used for a month or even shorter if the situation normalizes,” the prime minister said. “It is not intended to harm anyone. The recent victims? They are mostly employees. This means that the situation is irregular.”
Prayut also warned the young protesters not to break the law and asked parents to monitor their children.
“For these students, if parents do their best to take care of their children because I don’t want to see any consequences, it’s pretty harmful. I don’t know what the principal really wants,” he said.
Protesters appeared in Bangkok every day this Tuesday and coincided with King Vajiralongkorn’s return to Thailand for a number of royal duties, including commemorating his father, the late King Bumibol Adulyadej.
On Wednesday, thousands of protesters marched en masse from the city’s Monument to Democracy and broke through a police barricade to camp in front of Prayut’s offices late at night.
Authorities stepped up security this week, deploying about 15,000 police to control the crowds on Wednesday.
Thai human rights lawyers say 51 people have been arrested and prosecuted following anti-government protests in Bangkok this week.
Among them were several prominent activists, including student leader Panusaya Rung Sitijiravanatakul, human rights lawyer and protest leader Arnon Nampa, and protest leader Parit Penguin Chivarak.
Details of the grounds for the 51 arrests have not yet been released.