Activist blocked from seeing royal motorcade

Activist Tantawan Tuatulanon was blocked from going near the Temple of the Emerald Buddha yesterday (6 April) after she intended to wait for a royal motorcade.

Tantawan Tuatulanon waiting at a checkpoint after being blocked from going to wait for a royal motorcade

King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida were scheduled to travel past the area to pay respect to the Monument of King Phuttayodfa Chulalok, or King Rama I, at Memorial Bridge, on the occasion of Chakri Memorial Day, an annual public holiday held on 6 April to commemorate the establishment of the Chakri Dynasty.

The King and Queen were also scheduled to attend a religious ceremony at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Their royal motorcade was greeted by a crowd waiting along the route.

While passing through a checkpoint, Tantawan was stopped by police officers, who checked the identification of both Tantawan and a Prachatai reporter covering her activities.

The police told Tantawan that they could not allow her to pass and join others waiting to receive the King and Queen because she is facing a national security charge. They claimed that they did not have the authority to decide whether she can be let through without consulting the organizing committee. Another person waiting for the royal motorcade nearby also said that Tantawan had to be watched even if she was allowed through because she has broken the law, so Tantawan asked them if they are aware that she is facing a royal defamation charge merely for conducting a poll about whether people are affected by royal motorcades.

Tantawan is facing two royal defamation charges, one for conducting a poll on royal motorcades at Siam Paragon on 8 February 2022 and another for live streaming near a royal motorcade route on 5 March and questioning the authorities for clearing the road in preparation for a procession by removing protesting farmers who had been living in a makeshift shelter on the footpath for 3 months.

She was granted bail on all charges. However, the police have requested that her bail be revoked, claiming that she violated her bail conditions by posting about the monarchy and royal motorcades on social media. The police also claimed that Tantawan and her friends tried to drove to an area close to a royal motorcade on the evening of 17 March 2022. The Ratchadapisek Criminal Court has scheduled a hearing on 20 April 2022 during which it will rule whether her bail will be revoked.

While Tantawan was waiting at the checkpoint, she was approached by a woman wearing a yellow shirt. After seeing a "Ku Kult" sticker on Tantawan's mobile phone, the woman asked if she worked for the Ku Kult Facebook page.

The woman then asked Tantawan if she knew that the man who put the sticker onto a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn was convicted on a royal defamation charge. Tantawan then asked the woman if the conviction was reasonable, but the woman continued to argue with her and said that normal people are not affected by the royal defamation law.

A Prachatai reporter covering Tantawan's activity was filming the argument on his mobile phone. The woman then tried to slap the phone away, despite the reporter insisting that he had not filmed her face. The woman then walked away while saying "Ku Kult is a Facebook page that insults the King".

Police lining up to block Memorial Bridge (Photo from Mob Data Thailand)

At around 17.30, at another protest at the King Taksin the Great Monument at Wongwian Yai, one of the activists announced that Tantawan was being held at a checkpoint along the royal motorcade route and that protesters would march to Memorial Bridge to meet her.

As the march approached Memorial Bridge, police officers lined up to block the bridge and prevent traffic from taking the bridge. The Buppharam Police Station Superintendent then announced that the protesters were violating the Emergency Decree and must disperse immediately.

The Superintendent also said that the police would bring Tantawan to meet the protesters at a park near Phra Pok Klao bridge. However, at the time, Tantawan was still waiting at the checkpoint. The police never took her into custody during the entire evening. She later left the checkpoint with a friend at around 20.30.

At 18.45, the police began letting motorcycles onto Phra Pok Klao Bridge. Officers were stopping motorcycles taking the bridge and asking each person where they were going before letting them through. Other vehicles were not allowed through until 19.00.  

While protesters are gathering at Memorial Bridge and Tantawan was waiting at the checkpoint, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that Tanruetai, a 16-year-old activist, was detained at Samranrat Police Station after police officers found a “Long live the King” banner in her bag.

Tanruetai said that the police forced her to sign a log of her activity, but did not notify her if she is being charged, so she refused to sign any document and left the police station at around 19.35. She told TLHR that she was detained in the Bangkok City Hall area.

TLHR also said that another teenage activist was detained from the Sanam Luang area and taken to Royal Palace Police Station. The officers claimed that they would record her detention and release her without charging her. The activist refused to participate in the procedure and left the police station at around 19.35.

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