Artist arrested for royal defamation over King’s portrait

A digital artist was arrested at her home on Thursday (30 June) on a royal defamation charge, after charges were filed against her for a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn published on Instagram in September 2021.

One of Thopad's drawings

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that 11 police officers from the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) raided the home of 27-year-old Thopad Atanan, an independent digital artist who often posted artwork about the pro-democracy movement, and arrested her for royal defamation under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code and for importing into into a computer system data which is an offense against national security under Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act. TLHR noted that Thopad never received a summons in the 9 months since the alleged offence before being arrested.

The police presented an arrest warrant and a search warrant, and confiscated a computer, a painting, and a mobile phone. They declined to let anyone photograph the arrest warrant and the search warrant.

According to the TCSD inquiry officer, the charges are related to a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn which was posted on Instagram on 16 September 2021. The police said that the portrait defamed the King, and that their investigation shows that the Instagram account is likely to belong to Thopad, so they requested the Criminal Court for an arrest warrant. Thopad denied all charges and said she will submit her testimony at a later date.

The inquiry officer then took Thopad to court for a temporary detention request via a teleconference system, claiming that the police still have to interview 4 additional witness, check her computer and mobile phone, and her criminal record. The Court approved the request, but granted her bail on a 90,000-baht security, covered by the Will of the People Fund, a bail fund for people facing charges for participating in the pro-democracy movement.

The Court ordered Thopad to appoint a supervisor and required her to present a letter of consent from her supervisor by Friday (1 July). The Court also set the conditions that she must not repeat her offense and must report to her supervisor every 15 days. She must also report to the court on 17 August 2022.

According to TLHR, at least 208 people has been charged with royal defamation since November 2020, more than half of whom has been charged for their online political expression. 

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