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)