A Dozen Thai Student Activists Face Royal Defamation Charges
Lawyers for a dozen Thai pro-democracy student activists claimed on Thursday that they were charged with royal defamation and sedition during a rally last year that urged reforms to Thailand’s untouchable monarchy.
The pro-democracy movement began a year ago as a result of public anger with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-administration. Cha’s It has been mostly led by student activists.
The student-led marches, which gathered tens of thousands at their peak, sparked a public debate about monarchy reforms, which had hitherto been a taboo subject.
Thousands marched to the German embassy in October last year in defiance of the king, who has spent extended periods of time in Germany.
The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group, which represents the students, said, “All 12 have been charged with 112 (lese majeste) and 116 (sedition), with the youngest being 20 years old.”
“The rally and speeches delivered in front of the German embassy are the major grounds for the charges.”
The students’ lawyers are seeking that they be released on bond.
One of the primary demands of the pro-democracy movement is the repeal of Thailand’s severe lese majeste statute, which carries a maximum punishment of 15 years per charge.
Critics have long claimed that the law is often used to harass political opponents.
The royal insult law has been used against a large number of demonstrators, with some of the most renowned figures facing several charges for different protests.
The movement also wants Prayut, a former military chief who masterminded the 2014 coup, to resign, as well as a revision of Thailand’s military-scripted constitution.
However, as Thailand grapples with a fatal Covid-19 outbreak, demonstrators have shifted their focus to Prayut’s management of the pandemic.
The hashtag “Prayut Get Out” began trending this week as Thailand placed more areas under partial lockdown amid a near-daily influx of new diseases.
There are currently around 453,000 Covid-19 cases and 3,697 deaths, with the majority of the cases and deaths occurring since April, following an outbreak in nightclubs favored by Bangkok’s political elite.