Thailand: leaders of pro-democracy movement under threat of lese majesty prosecution

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Bangkok | At least 12 leaders of the Thai pro-democracy movement risk being indicted for lese majesty, a first since the start of the protest which protests again Wednesday in Bangkok to denounce the opacity of the gigantic royal fortune.

At this point, “twelve people have been summoned by the police on the basis of article 112 of the Penal Code” regarding this crime, said the Association of Thai Human Rights Lawyers (TLHR).

The police will then recommend to the prosecutor whether or not to prosecute on this basis.

We support “the right of people to demonstrate peacefully, but we are increasingly concerned about attempts to undermine the rule of law in Thailand,” government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri told AFP. justify the decision of the authorities.

The entire legislative arsenal “will be applied”.

When questioned, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, for his part, excluded at this stage from decreeing martial law.

The text on lese majesté, one of the most severe in the world, punishes up to 15 years in prison for any insult, criticism, defamation against the king or a member of his family. It has not been used since 2018.

“Total war”?

Bringing it out “does it mean that the monarchy has declared total war on the people?” Wonders leader Parit Chiwarak, known as “Penguin”, one of the twelve people targeted.

“Such an attitude could attract even more people to the streets” today.

The pro-democracy movement had initially planned to march this Wednesday to the Crown property bureau (CPB), which manages the royal fortune.

Several major axes around the site were blocked by the police with containers, worsening congestion in the megalopolis where traffic is already chaotic.

To avoid possible clashes with ultra-royalists who also wanted to meet near the CPB, the pro-democrats finally decided to gather in front of the offices of the Siam Commercial Bank, one of the largest banks in the kingdom of which the king is in a personal capacity one of the main shareholders.

A few hundred people were already there at the start of the afternoon.

The protesters demand the resignation of the Prime Minister, a rewrite of the Constitution and a reform of the kingship with in particular control over the royal finances.

Tens of billions of dollars

In 2017, King Maha Vajiralongkorn passed a law giving him full power over the CPB. Previously, the Minister of Finance sat on the board, providing some semblance of government control.

Construction, banking, chemicals, insurance, real estate: the CPB is not required to publish its figures, but analysts estimate that it administers between 30 and 60 billion dollars in assets, which makes the Thai monarchy the one of the richest in the world.

After four months of rallies, tension is mounting in Thailand.

Last week, police used water cannons and tear gas against protesters and six people were shot and wounded, the origin of which remains unknown.

The authorities’ response is also intervening on the judicial front.

According to TLHR, since the first rally on July 18, at least 174 people have been indicted for “illegal participation in a demonstration” and at least 46 are being prosecuted for “sedition,” a crime punishable by seven years in prison.

“No one should be arrested or jailed simply for having criticized political officials or a political regime,” Lebanese-British lawyer Amal Clooney reacted on Tuesday.

“Thailand should not respond to peaceful gatherings (…) with legal action that stifles speech.”

Ascended to the throne in 2016, Rama X is an unpredictable and controversial personality whose very frequent stays in Germany have raised questions.

Back in Thailand for several weeks, he multiplies the messages of “love” to all Thais.

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