Thai authorities arrest pro-democracy activists

Thai authorities on Aug. 19  arrested six activists who took part in ths month's pro-democracy demonstrations in Bangkok. Among the six activists arrested is lawyer Anon Nampa, who called for reform of the monarchy, marking the second time he has been arrested this month. Previously charged with sedition, Anon joined the student rallies demanding constitutional reform, the dissolution of parliament, and an end to the intimidation of activists. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said that the "Harry Potter-themed" rally on Aug. 3 went "too far" and urged protesters "not to create chaos." Speaking against the monarchy carries the risk of a 15-year prison term in Thailand. Demonstrators have been asserting that democracy is "impossible" without limiting the monarchy's constitutional role.

Anti-government rallies by students have been occurring on a daily basis for over a month, with the prime minister only confirming that he would consider protester concerns regarding the constitution.

From Jurist, Aug. 21. Used with permission.

Note: Thailand was ruled by a military junta for years after a 2014 coup d'etat, with powers curtailed for the country's parliament, known as the Legislative Assembly. New elections in June 2019 were mostly a formality, with junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha becoming prime minister. The army and King Maha Vajiralongkorn still have broad emergency powers. The lèse-majesté law, imposing criminal penalties for insulting the king, has been used to persecute dissidents. Thai protesters have often appropriated themes from poular culture.

Thailand: limited constitutional reform amid repression

Thai lawmakers voted Nov. 18 to amend the country's constitution, but rejected the reform curbing the power of the monarchy that protesters were hoping for. The approved reforms mostly concern parliamentary process. The next day, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha threatened to use "all possible laws" against democracy protestors calling for the removal of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The constitutional vote was taken a day after protests in Bangkok turned violent, with 55 people injured, and two shot with live ammunition. Police employed tear-gas and chemical-laced water cannons against the protesters. To combat the water cannons, protesters have used inflatable rubber ducks as shields, which have become a symbol of their pro-democracy movement. (Jurist, Jurist)

As we have noted, rubber ducks have become an unlikely pro-democracy symbol elsewhere in Asia as well.

Thailand protestors rally for revoking lèse majesté law

More than 1,000 pro-democracy protestors in Thailand rallied Dec. 10 for revocation of the lèse majesté law, which proscribes acts of defaming, insulting or threatening the king, the queen, the regent or the heir apparent. The protestors gathered at the 14 October 1973 Memorial which commemorates civilian protestors who lost their lives in the 1973 uprising against the Thai military dictatorship.

Another group assembled outside the United Nations office and submitted an open letter asking the international community to pressure the government to revoke the law Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code.

The move came after several student protestors were charged with the offence in recent demonstrations. The law was also used to persecute critics of the military's 2014 coup d’etat against a democratically elected government. (Jurist)

Thai film star charged with insulting monarchy

A well-known actress who is one of the most high-profile supporters of Thailand's pro-democracy protest movement answered a police summons Dec. 21 charging her with violating the country's harsh law against defaming the monarchy, even though she is not known to have spoken publicly about the royal institution.

Inthira "Sai" Charoenpura, who is also a singer, has drawn both praise and criticism for giving material support and raising funds for the student-led movement. Along with seven protest leaders, she presented herself at a police station in Bangkok to hear charges that they had violated the country’s lese majeste law, which calls for a prison term of three to 15 years for defaming the king or members of his family. (AP)

Thai activist gets 43 years for insulting monarchy

The Bangkok Criminal Court on Jan. 19 sentenced a Thai woman to more than 43 years in prison for insulting the monarchy. The woman, Anchan Preelert, is a former member of the Banpodj Network, a group accused by the Thai government of being "anti-monarchy" due to the content of videos uploaded to Facebook and YouTube. Preelert was arrested in 2015 along with numerous other members of the Banpodj Network for violation of Thailand's strict lèse-majesté laws. (Jurist)

Thai opposition leader charged with insulting monarchy

The Thai government filed a criminal complaint against political leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit Jan. 20, citing crimes against the monarchy. Juangroongruangkit is the leader of Future Forward, a pro-democracy party created to contest Thai elections. He criticized the government's administration of recently developed COVID-19 vaccines. Juangroongruankit specifically condemned the government for relying too heavily on the Crown Property Bureau, a company owned by the monarchy. Prosecutors filed the complaint under Thailand's Lese Majeste Law. (Jurist)

Thailand pro-democracy leaders face mass trial

A mass trial against 22 Thai pro-democracy activists charged under the sedition act and other provisions, including the country’s lèse-majesté (royal insult) laws, began March 15. The demonstrators have been charged for their speeches and actions at one of the youth movement's many mass pro-democracy protests against the country’s monarchy and military establishment. (Jurist)

Thailand court: call for royal reforms unconstitutional

The Constitutional Court of Thailand ruled Nov. 10 that three activists who had called for a reform of the monarchy had violated Section 49 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, which stipulates that "No person shall exercise the rights or liberties to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State." (Jurist)

Thai activist faces long prison term over social media post

A court in Thailand sentenced a 27-year-old political activist to 28 years in prison for posting messages on Facebook that it said defamed the monarchy, while two young women charged with the same offense continued a hunger strike after being hospitalized.

The court in Chiang Rai found that Mongkhon Thirakot violated the lese majeste law in 14 of 27 posts for which he was arrested last August. 

Since November 2020, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, at least 228 people, including 18 minors, have been charged with violating the law, even as the protest movement has withered. (AP)

Thailand: youth detained for defaming monarchy

Human Rights Watch called on Thai authorities to release a 15-year-old student activist who was detained after allegedly defaming the nation's monarchy. Thanalop "Yok" Phalanchai was arrested in Bangkok on March 28 after police accused her of criticising the monarchy during a protest rally in October 2022. She was later charged with lèse-majesté (insulting the monarchy) offences and is being held at a Justice Ministry facility in Nakhon Pathom awaiting trial. (Jurist)

Thai voters elect opposition over military-backed parties​

Thailand's two major pro-democracy opposition parties—Move Forward Party and Pheu Thai—won by a landslide in national elections on May 14. The result signals Thai voters' rejection of the military-backed government, which has dominated the political scene for nearly a decade. However, it remains to be seen if the military will allow the opposition parties to take power. (Jurist)

Thai officials threaten election winners with ban

As the surprise winner of Thailand's recent election tries to form a new government, some officials are saying are hedging on whether they will allow the power transition. Pita Limjaroenrat swept the vote by promising to take on the powers that be—Thailand's military establishment—but election officials are threatening to ban him and, potentially, his victorious Move Forward party. A law in Thailand forbids candidates from owning shares in media companies; Pita inherited, from his deceased father, shares in a TV channel that went bust more than fifteen years ago. Election officials will soon rule on the case. (PRI)

Strange outcome to Thai electoral impasse

Thailand's parliament Aug. 22 elected the Pheu Thai party's Srettha Thavisin, a 61-year-old property tycoon, as the new prime minister, ending a deadlock since the general election three months ago. This outcome was ordained by military leaders who were unwilling to allow the more radical Move Forward party to take power. Pheu Thai, which had long promised to stand up to the country's military elites, is now entering a power-sharing arrangement with military-backed parties. (PRI, Nikkei Asia)

On that same day, former Pheu Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra returned to Thailand after 15 years of exile. Upon his arrival, he was immediately escorted to Thailand’s Supreme Court and sentenced to eight years imprisonment for corruption—although it seems likely he will escape serving the full term given the new political developments. (Jurist, DW)

Thailand: king commutes ex-PM's eight-year sentence

The Thai Royal Gazette announced on Sept. 1 that Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn granted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra a royal pardon, reducing Thaksin's eight-year prison sentence to one year. A royal pardon may be granted as an unconditional release or commutation of punishment at the discretion of the king. (Jurist)

Thailand court denies bail to prominent protest leader

The Court of Appeal in Thailand on Sept. 30 rejected the bail application of Arnon Nampa, a prominent leader of the Thai protest movement, according to a social media announcement from the Thai Lawyers Center for Human Rights (TLHR).

Nampa was convicted under Thailand's lèse-majesté law, which imposes strict penalties for defaming or insulting the monarchy. The charges against him stemmed from a speech he delivered during pro-democracy protests in October 2020, where he called for open discussions on the power and political role of the Thai monarchy. He is appealing the conviction. (Jurist, BBC News)

Thailand democracy activist gets 50 years for defaming monarchy

Thai pro-democracy activist Mongkol "Busbas" Thirakot was convicted Jan. 18 and sentenced to 50 years in prison for "royal defamation" related to his social media posts from 2021. (Jurist)

Thailand high court bars effort to change lèse-majesté law

The Constitutional Court of Thailand ruled Jan. 31 that efforts by the opposition Move Forward Party (MFP) to change the country's "royal insult" law are temselves illegal, ordering a cessation of any attempts to push for reform. The ruling opens the potential for political bans on the party and its members if found in violation of the law. (Jurist)

Thailand politician sentenced to prison for 'illegal' rally

A Thai court handed down a suspended sentence on Feb. 5 to political figure Pita Limjaroenrat for an illegal rally held in 2019. Limjaroenrat was sentenced alongside seven other individuals involved with his political party, the Move Forward Party (previously the Future Forward Party).

The case centered on a "flash mob" rally led by the then Future Forward Party (FFP) on Dec. 14, 2019, to call for then prime minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha to resign. It was the largest protest in Thailand since the 2014 military coup, taking place at a key Bangkok intersection within 150 meters of Pathumwan Palace. 

Following the trial at Pathumwan District Court, eight individuals were sentenced alongside Limjaroenrat. These included business executive Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, member of parliament Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, FFP spokesperson Pannika Wanich, and former FFP candidate Pairattachote Chantarakajon. They all received sentences of two months, suspended for two years due to their lack of criminal record. The court also fined the individuals 20,200 baht for staging a rally without prior notice and using a loudspeaker without a permit. All those sentenced stated their intent to appeal. (Jurist, Phuket News)

Former exiled Thailand PM granted parole

Prime Minister of Thailand Srettha Thavisin announced that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was granted parole Feb. 13. He had been serving a one-year prison sentence for corruption charges. (Jurist)

Thai journalists arrested for reporting on temple vandalism

Two Thai journalists who were arrested for reporting about the vandalism of a temple in Bangkok with anti-monarchist graffiti have been released on bail. Nattaphol Meksobhon, a reporter from the independent online news outlet Prachatai, and freelance photographer Nattaphon Phanphongsanon were arrested Feb. 12, nearly a year after the incident in Bangkok. They are charged with collaborating in vandalizing an historical site. The offense is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a 700,000 baht ($19,600) fine.

The charges involve a March 28, 2023, incident in which a young activist spray-painted an anarchist symbol and the number 112 with a line through it on the exterior wall of the revered Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is in the Grand Palace complex.

The number 112 is a reference to the “lese majeste” law, which protects the royal family from criticism. (Al Jazeera)

Thai activist dies after hunger strike

An activist in Thailand has died following a hunger strike that lasted more than two months. The 28-year-old woman, Netiporn "Bung" Sanesangkhom, sought to draw attention to Thailand's law against insulting the country's monarchy—a law she’d been charged with herself. Thailand has some of the world's strictest laws against royal defamation—with some offenders receiving decades-long prison sentences. (PRI)

Thailand court sentences musician to four years

Activist musician Chai-amorn Kaewwiboonpan was sentenced to four years imprisonment May 27 for actions deemed insulting to Thailand's monarchy. (Jurist)

Thailand: ex-PM indicted for royal insult

Thailand's attorney general announced May 29 a decision to indict former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra for allegedly insulting the monarchy in an interview he conducted in 2015 with a foreign media outlet. (Jurist)