The military has prohibited university lecturers and students from organising an event in support of an anti-junta activist accused of lèse majesté, reasoning that the Thai people are still mourning for the late King Bhumibol.
On 11 January 2017, Asst. Prof. Winai Phoncharoen of Mahasarakham University told Prachatai that military officers had forbidden him from organising an activity to show solidarity with Jatuphat ‘Pai’ Boonpattaraksa, the first person charged with lèse majesté under the reign of King Vajiralongkorn.
Winai said that he and university students contacted police on 10 January to ask for permission to hold an event to light up candles for Jatuphat. Officers sanctioned the event, but informed him that they would deploy officers to maintain security at the event.
On the evening of the same day, however, police informed him that military officials from Mahasarakham Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) had prohibited the gathering.
The next day, Winai and others lecturers travelled to the ISOC Unit to ask for permission for the event again from both military officers and provincial administrative officers.
But the Deputy Governor of the Province told him that the event was not to be held because it risked instability, adding that the court will eventually release Jatuphat when the time is right.
He emphasised further, “The Thai people are still mourning for the late King Bhumibol and no symbolic events should be held at this time.”
Jatuphat, one of the key members of New Democracy Movement (NDM), was arrested on 3 December 2016, only two days after King Rama X’s accession. He was accused of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code for sharing on his Facebook account a controversial biography of the King published by BBC Thai.
At first, Khon Kaen Provincial Court granted Jatuphat bail after his arrest. However, the court revoked the bail on 22 December after he posted a satirical message mocking authorities on his Facebook account.
The message leading to the revocation read, “Economy is poor but they (authorities) took my money for bail.”
People assemble in front of the Ratchada Criminal Court, Bangkok, on 8 January 2017 to give moral support to Jatuphat ‘Pai’ Boonpattaraksa