Performance artist faces another royal defamation charge

Chiang Mai University student and performance artist Withaya Khlangnin is facing another royal defamation charge for staging a performance in front of the university on 1 May 2021 to demand the release of detained activists.

Withaya poured red paint all over himself during his performance on 1 May 2021

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that, according to the police, Withaya’s performance amounts to royal defamation because it involved climbing onto the university sign, above which was a portrait of the King and a sign saying “Long live the King.” Withaya also poured red paint all over himself, which the police said was unsightly, and spilled paint over the university sign and the image of the King. The police also said that the gestures Withaya used during the performance, such as standing with a paint bucket over his head, and lying down with one foot pointing up at the portrait of the king, was disrespectful.

Withaya went to Phuping Rajanivej Police Station on Tuesday (5 October) to hear the charges. He was dressed as Luffy from the Japanese manga One Piece, and staged a short performance before going to meet the inquiry officer.

Withaya arrived at the Phuping Rajanivej Police Station dressed as Luffy from the Japanese manga One Piece, and performed Luffy's "Gear 2" pose before going into the police station. 

TLHR reported that at least 60 police officers were stationed in the area, while the police station was surrounded with metal fences. The police also tried to stop a small crowd of supporters from going inside the police station area. Officers were taking photos and videos of people, and repeatedly made announcements that gatherings are prohibited under the Emergency Decree. 

Withaya was released after his meeting with the inquiry officer. He has to report to the police again in 12 days, and has to submit further testimony in 20 days.

Withaya is currently facing 2 counts of lèse majesté under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. Along with Yotsunthon Ruttapradid, another Chiang Mai University student, he was previously charged under Section 112 and the 1979 Flag Act for a piece of installation art during a protest on 14 March 2021, which featured a mannequin wrapped in plastic in the middle of two red and white strips, on which participants at the 14 March protest were invited to write down messages. The messages were seen as defaming the King, and since the piece looks like a Thai flag without the blue stripe, which represents the monarchy, it was taken to mean that the artist does not wish the monarchy to exist in the country.

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