Eight accused of royal defamation for burning royal arches

The public prosecutor has charged eight people with royal defamation for burning royal arches.   

On 16 August 2017, at the Provincial Court of Phon District, Khon Kaen Province, the prosecutor indicted eight individuals (identities withheld due to privacy concerns) on charges of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, criminal association, and destruction of public property, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported.

According to the police, six of the eight, who are between 18-20 years old of age, burned several arches erected in honour of the late King Bhumibol and King Vajiralongkorn in Chonnabot District, Khon Kaen Province, on 3 May 2017, while the two other are accused of preparing to burn a similar arch in Pueai Noi District.

They were allegedly hired by a man named Pricha and other persons who are still at large. According to a bangkokbiznews report in May, four confessed to the accusation, saying that Pricha paid them 200 baht each to burn the arch.

The indictment came as a surprise because earlier on 25 May, the Khon Kaen police announced at a press briefing that they would not be charged under the lèse majesté law.  

The eight were taken to Phon District Prison after the indictment.

The eight, together with a 14-year-old who was also allegedly involved in the burning, were arrested on 17 May and held incommunicado at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok for six days.

The eight were then sent back to the police in Khon Kaen where they were detained for 48 more days before being released temporarily before the indictment.

The 14-year-old was transferred to the provincial facility of the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection for detention. At press time, there was no information as to whether he has been released or is still detained.

According to TLHR, most of the suspects said that they were merely hired in an ad hoc manner to carry out the operation and that they were informed during interrogation at the military base that they would not face charges.