The Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Ekachai Hongkangwan and Boonkueanoon Paothong, who were at the 14 October protest where they found themselves in the middle of a police blockade and the royal motorcade of the Queen and the King’s son.
A moment when the royal motorcade passing through Phitsanulok road.
As of 18 October, Ekkachai, a former lèse majesté prisoner were denied bail and remanded at the Bangkok Remand Prison. Boonkueanoon was allowed to be bailed.
They were charged with violating the Section 110 of the Criminal Code for harming Her Majesty the Queen’s liberty. If found guilty, the two face 16-20 years in prison or life sentences. As of 11.00 on 16 October, Ekachai was reportedly arrested while on the way to turn himself in at Dusit Police Station.
Ekachai will be taken to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Khlong Luang, Pathum Thani, where protesters have been taken en masse to hear the charges from 13 October. Boonkueanoon managed to turn himself in at Dusit Police Station.
Matichon reported that the police are ready to submit to the court requests for arrest warrants for 5 more people on the same charge.
The incident took place at around 17.50 on Phitsanulok Road during the march by anti-dictatorship protesters from the Democracy Monument to Government House. The police had blocked the road, but some of the protesters, including the two accused, managed to make it through and were sandwiched by the police from behind.
As the main bulk of the protesters were negotiating with the police to open up the street, a royal motorcade passed by on Phitsanulok Road where there were police, anti-dictatorship protesters and some pro-monarchy people wearing yellow who were already there.
The Queen, representing King Rama X and accompanied by Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, was on her way to offer robes to monks in kathin ceremonies (an annual Buddhist merit offering ceremony) at Wat Arun Ratchawararam (the Temple of the Dawn) and Wat Ratcha Orasaram. The motorcade passed protesters shouting and raising the 3-finger salute. One person also threw a bottle of water at the motorcade.
Ekachai and Boonkueanoon insisted that they were not informed in advance of the appearance of the royal procession.
According to BBC Thai, Ekachai said he and other protesters reacted to the sudden formation of police in the form of a human blockade that walked toward them. They were concerned that this could be a crackdown. He insisted that the authorities there did not inform protestors that a royal procession would be passing by.
Ekachai said he did not know where the people were from who were shouting and raising 3 fingers. He felt that his arrest was not fair because the police had not given him any warning about the procession.
Boonkueanoon told Prachatai that he and other protesters rushed at the police out of concern for a crackdown. He also reaffirmed that there were no prior announcements at all about the procession and that he had intention at all to harm any royal family members.
He said that at the time, he was sitting with many friends until they saw police officers lined up in formation. He thought that it may be an operation to clear the protestors. So he went to stand in front of them to tell the police not to do it.
“After that, I saw a crowd come to form a barricade. Another thing I saw after that, at that time, there were clashes with the police but looking across there was a royal motorcade already there. And the police had not informed us that there would be a royal motorcade. There was nothing at all said about a royal motorcade coming that way.
“As soon as I saw it, I walked away and tried to get out of the blockade. I tried to use my megaphone to tell the protesters to move back, to get out of the way of the royal procession and move away so that it could proceed. After that, there were fingers raised as symbols but I did not shout anything and after that I went back to my original spot.”, said Boonkueanoon.
Questions raised over procession route
Many pro-monarchy social media channels saw the confrontation at the royal procession as an assault on and harassment of the royal family. The severe state of emergency in Bangkok that was announced on 15 October also referred to the incident as unlawful and a threat to national security.
The Thai Move Institute, a conservative and pro-monarchy online influencer, interviewed people wearing yellow who were there to greet the royal procession. One of them said he was informed from news sources that there would be a royal procession there. So he moved from Makkhawan bridge where another royal procession had already passed by.
He said he and 20 other like-minded people tried to block the protesters while shouting “long live the Queen”. Another interviewee said that he did not know who was in the procession.
News reporters who were there also gave their views of the incident. Pravit Rojanaphruk from Khaosod English stated that he was there reporting via Facebook live. According to his observation, he did not see anyone trying to stop the procession or hitting the vehicles.
Live footage (sound muted due to improper language) from Teeranai Charuvastra, another Khaosod English reporter, confirms Pravit’s observation that no announcements were made as the police formed up the blockade. Ekachai and Boonkueanoon can be seen raising 3 fingers but neither of them blocked or got close to the procession at all.
“And importantly, there was no announcement from the police at all that there would be a royal procession along Phitsanulok Road, in front of Government House which the first group of protesters had occupied so easily that Francis (Boonkueanoon) told me that it was so easy that it felt ‘fishy’,” stated Pravit on Facebook.
Noppakow Kongsuwan, another reporter from Khaosod Online who was reporting on the pedestrian bridge across Phitsanulok Road, which would normally be cleared of people if there was a royal procession, stated on his Facebook post that there were no announcements or attempts to clear the pedestrian bridge.
He also questioned why the royal motorcade travelled via this route where the main bulk of the protesters were. Even though all alternative routes like Ratchadamnoen Avenue were almost completely cleared of protesters, the police responsible for arranging the motorcade route still decided to use Phitsanulok Road.
“I raise the question with no intent to provoke, based on available facts which many media agencies reported or even from many video clips or many of those who were there. There is collective agreement that in this case “there was no blocking” at all,” stated Noppakow.