Monarchy reform activists arrested on royal defamation charge

Three members of the monarchy reform activist group Thaluwang were arrested earlier today (22 April) on charges of royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act.

Thaluwang members conducting a poll on whether people agree with the government allowing the King to use his powers as he pleases

Activists Supitcha “Maynu” Chailom, Benjamaporn “Ploy” Nivas, and “Baipor” or Nutthanit (last name withheld) were stopped by highway police on Phet Kasem Road, Phetchaburi, while on their way to Cha Am, a beach town in Phetchaburi and a popular tourist destination. The police checked their identification before presenting arrest warrants on charges of royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act.

The warrant was issued by the Criminal Court and the Central Juvenile and Family Court on a request from the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD).

The three activists were detained at a nearby highway police service centre before being taken to Bangkok. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that while they were detained, the police presented a search warrant for their electronic devices. Officers also tried to search their car despite not having a warrant for it.

TLHR also said that the police also searched the three activists’ residences and confiscated a laptop, a mobile phone, several t-shirts used during the group’s activities, and signs and stickers the group used to conduct their polls.

The search took place at 9.00, when the activists were already in police custody. The officers were let into the activists’ apartments by the buildings’ juristic persons.

As Thaluwang members, Supitcha, Benjamaporn, and Nutthanit conducted public polls on questions relating to the monarchy, such as whether people are affected by royal motorcades, whether they would like their tax money to be used to maintain the monarchy, and whether they agree with the government allowing the King to use his powers as he pleases.

Nutthanit, 20, has previously been charged with royal defamation, sedition, and refusing to comply with an officer’s order for conducting a poll on royal motorcade at Siam Paragon shopping mall on 8 February 2022. On 28 December 2021, she was also among the three activists arrested for holding up banners with the message “Abolish Section 112” at Wongwian Yai, where a crowd of people were waiting to see King Vajiralongkorn and his entourage, during which officers pushed them around and tried to silence them by placing their hands over their mouth, causing minor injuries. They were charged with causing a public commotion and failing to comply with police orders and received a 1000-baht fine.

Supitcha, 18, is from Chiang Mai and has been previously charged with royal defamation for a speech given at a protest in Songkhla on 30 November 2020, while 17-year-old Benjamaporn previously campaigned against human rights abuses in schools with the student rights group Bad Student. She was charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for participating in a protest at the Ratchaprasong Intersection on 15 October 2020.

All three activists were released on bail at around 18.00. The Criminal Court granted bail for Supitcha and Nutthanit using a 100,000-baht security each, and gave them the conditions that they must not participate in activities that can cause public disorder or damage the monarchy or repeat their offense. They must also report to court every 30 days.

Meanwhile, the Central Juvenile and Family Court granted Benjamaporn bail using a 20,000-baht security.

 

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