Thai activists pursue change despite legal threats
Chonthicha “Lookkate” Jangrew is taking her campaign to the streets, going door-to-door to garner support for the upcoming May 14 General Election. However, she faces the possibility of imprisonment due to charges of sedition and royal defamation from protests in 2020.
The 30 year old activist is among over a dozen representatives from the student-led protest movement who are shifting their focus from demonstrating on the streets to participating in the election as candidates. They are bravely addressing the issue of the monarchy’s role in society despite the severe consequences. A conviction under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese-majeste law, could lead to up to 15 years in prison.
The Move Forward Party, for which Chonthicha is running, aims to modify – instead of abolishing – the royal defamation law. The party proposes to decrease the severity of punishments and states that only the Bureau of the Royal Household should be qualified to file complaints.
“Both paths need to move forward together,” Chonthicha stated in an interview while taking a break from campaigning in Pathum Thai. “If you want to make a change in Thailand, you cannot rely solely on street movements or only on parliament.”
The 2020 demonstrations were initially against the military’s domination of politics and a controversial election. However, they made history by also questioning the authority of the monarchy. Legal action against protest leaders has largely suppressed the protests, with hundreds arrested and facing ongoing criminal cases in the courts.
Chonthicha disclosed that she has 28 criminal cases against her, including two of lese-majeste. If convicted, her parliamentary career would come to an end since a person convicted of an offence is disqualified from the House of Representatives.
Data from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reveals that since the inception of the Free Youth pro-democracy protests in July 2020, 1,898 individuals have been prosecuted for political participation and expression. At least 237 are facing lese-majeste charges, and 130 are charged with sedition.
Renowned Thai activist Chonthicha “Lookkate” Jangrew is going door-to-door, campaigning for the May 14 election while facing the risk of imprisonment due to charges of sedition and royal defamation from 2020 protests. The 30 year old is among several activists moving from street protests to participating in the election as candidates. They are courageously discussing the role of the monarchy in society, despite serious consequences under the lese-majeste law.
The Move Forward Party, which Chonthicha represents, is aiming to amend rather than abolish the royal defamation law. The party suggests reducing the severity of punishments and allowing only the Bureau of the Royal Household to file complaints.
Asserting the need for change, Chonthicha said…
“If you want to make a change in Thailand, you cannot rely solely on street movements or only on Parliament. Both paths need to move forward together.”
The 2020 demonstrations began as opposition to the military’s political domination and a contested election but later questioned the monarchy’s authority. Protests were mainly suppressed through legal action against leaders, with hundreds arrested and facing ongoing criminal cases.
Chonthicha revealed she has 28 criminal cases against her, including two of lese-majeste, which could end her political career if convicted.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) data show that since the Free Youth pro-democracy protests began in July 2020, 1,898 people have been prosecuted for political participation and expression, with 237 facing lese-majeste charges and 130 charged with sedition.
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