The former leader of the now disbanded Future Forward Party has appeared at a Bangkok police station to face a charge of lèse majesté. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, now leader of the Progressive Movement, appeared at Nang Loeng Police Station to acknowledge the charge, also known as section 112 of the Criminal Code.
Section 112 makes it an offence to insult, defame, or criticise the monarchy and carries a penalty of up to 15 years’ imprisonment. The Bangkok Post reports that the charge was filed by Apiwat Kanthong, who is part of the team assisting the vice-minister to the PM’s Office. Anyone can file a charge of lèse majesté against someone they believe guilty of the offence. The charge against Thanathorn relates to a January 18 Facebook Live broadcast in which he criticised Thailand’s vaccine procurement process.
In his broadcast, Thanathorn referred to a technology transfer agreement that gives Siam Bioscience sole rights to manufacture the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine in Thailand. The firm is wholly owned by the Crown Property Bureau. In responding to reporters, Thanathorn insists he was merely questioning the government’s process and didn’t say anything that would defame the monarchy.
“If you go back to listen to what I said in the clip, you’ll find nothing that violates Section 112. 2 months have passed, and you can see what I said back then was true – overreliance on a vaccine by a single company is a risk.”
After the Facebook Live broadcast, the government attempted to have it banned, with the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society seeking a court order to have it blocked in Thailand. However, the bid was rejected by the Criminal Court.
Meanwhile, Thanathorn remains critical of the national vaccine rollout, telling reporters yesterday that he was concerned about the slow pace of inoculation.
“Since February 28, when vaccination began, only 150,000 jabs have been administered, or 5,000 shots a day. We still have 1 million doses in hand. Why don’t we speed up using them?”
Thailand now has a million doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine, as well as 117,000 AstraZeneca doses. Medics say the vaccination plan is proceeding in line with expectations, with health workers and high-risk groups prioritised. Another 800,000 doses of Sinovac have just passed inspection and will be distributed to 22 priority provinces.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post