Police force student activist to lay low during royal visit

Kantapat (surname withheld), a 17 year old student activist, was summoned to the Nong Ki police station in Buriram Province on 3 January to sign a paper affirming that he would not interfere with an upcoming royal procession of Princess Sirindhorn on 5 January.

Kantapat (on the right) meets the police on 3 January 2022. (Source: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights)

According to the Buriram Provincial Cultural Office, Princess Sirindhorn was planning to visit two Border Patrol Police Schools in the Lahansai and Pakham Districts on 5 January.  En route, the royal procession was scheduled to pass through Nong Ki District.

Kantapat told Prachatai that he received a phone call from a police officer on 2 January asking him not to stage any activity on 5 January. The police also asked that he go to the police station to sign a daily record and allow police to confirm his whereabouts via telephone at least twice a day during 3-5 January period.

The activist said that he had no plan to organise an activity during that time and was instead preparing for a midterm exam that was scheduled for after the long new year’s holiday.  Despite this, plainclothes police reportedly kept an eye on him at his home and school.

He could not explain why the police were ‘so anxious’.

Kantapat has been a target of the local police and school authorities since 2020, when he organised political activities in support of the pro-democracy movement and against the school’s uniform policy. 

As a result of police monitoring prior to the 14 November monarchy reform protest in Bangkok, he was unable to join the demonstration.

In December 2020, his parents were also summoned to his school to hear complaints about his political activism and Facebook posts criticicing the school principal. In April 2021, the school forced him to sign a resignation letter stating that he had failed to meet school standards of behaviour by demonstrating his ‘love for the nation, religion and the monarch.  The reason pertained to his pro-democracy activities. 

He was told that if he repeated the offence, the resignation paper would become immediately effective.

Police monitoring of activists in advance of royal visits has been frequent since the 2014 coup. Activists in Northern Thailand have reported such monitoring on a number of occasions. The latest was on 20 December 2021 when Pakawadee Veerapaspong, a Chiang Mai activist and translator, was visited by plainclothes policemen before Princess Sirindhorn’s royal visit in Chiang Mai Province on 24 December.  A full report was published by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

Prior to the Kantapat incident, royal processions in Bangkok have been targeted by activists twice. On 28 December 2021, three activists held up banners with the message “abolish Section 112” at a procession of King Vajiralongkorn in Bangkok. They were arrested and fined. 

Two days later, another two activists were arrested and charged with royal defamation after raising a banner at the Equestrian Monument Intersection close by one of the King’s palaces shortly before a royal procession passed the area. The banner demanded the release of detained protesters.

Arrests in both cases involved the use of force, resulting in cuts and, in one instance, a dislocated shoulder.

Source: 
prachatai.com/journal/2022/01/96676

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