CMU students summoned on royal defamation charge for art installation

Two students from Chiang Mai University have received police summonses on charges under the lèse majesté law and the 1979 Flag Act for an art installation piece exhibited at an event in March 2021.

Withaya Khlangnin and Yotsunthon Ruttapradid were summoned by officers from Phuping Rajanivej Police Station, after Srisuwan Janya, Secretary-General of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, filed a complaint against them for an art installation piece they exhibited during the 14 March 2021 protest at Chiang Mai University. Srisuwan claimed that the piece violated the 1979 Flag Act and that messages written on the piece violate Section 112 of the Criminal Code, Thailand’s lèse majesté law.

The art piece features a mannequin wrapped in plastic in the middle of two red and white strips. It was reportedly exhibited during a protest on 14 March 2021, when several art pieces were exhibited on the university rugby field.

It was shown again during an event on 25 March 2021, when students from the Faculty of Fine Arts gathered in front of the University’s Office of Strategy Management to demand an explanation from university and faculty management for an incident on 22 March 2021, when the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and several other faculty personnel attempted to remove students’ art projects from the Media Arts and Design Department building without first informing the students, claiming that some pieces could violate the law.

According to iLaw, the students received a phone call from the police informing them of the summons. They were told that the police have sent the summonses to their home addresses in Sukhothai and Narathiwat, and that they must report to the police on 3 May, or the police will consider issuing arrest warrants.

iLaw also reported that the inquiry officer told the students that once they reported to the police, they will be taken to Chiang Mai Provincial Court for a temporary detention request. The students then contacted a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), who filed a request to have their appointment postponed, as neither have received the summons and the appointment is too sudden.

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