Students accused of royal defamation for protest fashion show hear charges

Two students facing charges under the lèse majesté law for participating in a “fashion show” during a pro-democracy protest on Silom Road went to hear the charges yesterday (17 December), while members of the We Volunteer protest guard group and other protesters gathered outside the police station in Thai traditional dress to show support.

Jatuporn Sae-Ung arriving at the Yannawa Police Station

Jatuporn Sae-Ung, 23, and Noppasin (last name withheld), 16, went to Yannawa Police Station to hear the charges after they were accused of insulting the Queen by wearing Thai traditional dress, a gesture seen as mockery of the royal family, at a “fashion show” during the protest on Silom Road on 29 October 2020.

Jatuporn was immediately released after she was informed of the charges without needing to post bail. She said after her release that, during the protest, she only wore Thai traditional dress and did not give any speeches, but she was accused of imitating the Queen. She said she would like Section 112 to be repealed, but commented that it might be difficult and that the law seems to be used as a form of harassment.

Noppasin, on the other hand, was taken to the Juvenile and Family Court, so that the court could examine whether the case was handled properly according to the protocol for pressing charges against a minor. The inquiry officer also submitted a detention request, which the Court approved as the charge carries high penalty, despite Noppasin’s lawyer objecting to the request on the ground that he would not flee and will report to the aithorities as summoned. He was eventually released on bail.

Khumklao Songsomboon from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that, according to the inquiry officer, Noppasin is charged because he wore a tank top, which was interpreted as mockery. Noppasin has denied all charges.

Khumklao also said that, even though Noppasin was granted bail, he still has to report to the Juvenile Detention Centre on Monday. He also has to report to the inquiry officer along with Jatuporn on 11 January 2021, when the inquiry officer is scheduled to submit the case to the public prosecutor.

Parit Chiwarak giving a speech in front of the Yannawa Police Station

As Jatuporn and Noppasin were hearing their charges, the We Volunteer (WeVo) protest guard group organized a rally in front of Yannawa Police Station, even though the police stated that they had not notified the police of a public assembly and must disperse by 11.30 a.m. Many people who joined the rally wore Thai traditional attire to show their support.

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak wore a red Thai costume with blue diamond accessories. He made a speech criticizing the illogical use of lèse majesté law including this case and another involving a pro-democracy actress who supported the protests with food.

He also urged the authorities to accept the demand of the people and abolish the lèse majesté law, otherwise, the law will no longer be justified and the people will abolish it no matter what the royal institution thinks.

Parit said that lèse majesté charges had been filed not in the cause of justice but as a punishment on behalf of the King. And if the authorities continued to obstruct democratization by the lèse majesté law, this meant that they were trying to make the royal institution an enemy of the people.

34 people now charged with Section 112

 

As of 17 December, a total of 34 people are now facing charges under Section 112 in connection with the recent protests. 

Actor Inthira Charoenpura and volunteer medic Natthathida Meewangpla received summonses on Wednesday (16 December 2020). Inthira has been supporting the pro-democracy protests by donating food and equipment and supporting other activists’ fundraising efforts, but has never given speeches. Natthathida, who was previously been charged with royal defamation in 2015, received a summons from Bangkhen Police Station, most likely for the protest in front of the 11th Infantry Regiment headquarters on 29 November.

Student activist Phongsatorn Tancharoen, a member of the student activist group Mahasarakham University Democracy Front, received a summons from Paholyothin Police Station, most likely in relation to the protest in front of the SCB headquarters on 25 November.

Narin (last name withheld) is also facing charges under Section 112, most likely for putting a sticker on a display in honour of the King. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) also reported that, following the 19 – 20 September protest, Narin was arrested by plainclothes officers for charges under the Computer Crimes Act,  and accused of running the satirical Facebook page “กูkult.”

Others who have already been summoned have received summonses for additional charges, including human rights lawyer and protest leader Anon Nampa, who is now facing 7 counts of royal defamation.

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