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PM won’t rule out lèse majesté charges for protesters




PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has implied in a media address that anti-government protesters may face lèse majesté charges. He has previously threatened to use the full force of the law against pro-democracy activists and was responding to questions from reporters about whether this included the section on lèse majesté.

“It is among all those laws. Do you understand the term all laws?”

Thailand’s lèse majesté law prohibits criticism or defamation of the Monarchy or members of the royal family, an offence punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment. The PM says the government will act against any violation of the law.

“The government must take swift action because many people have voiced opinions on the issue. People nationwide cannot accept this.”

Since mid-July, pro-democracy protesters have been taking to the streets demanding the resignation of the PM, the dissolution of Parliament and a re-write of the constitution, as well as reform of the Monarchy. The next rally is planned for November 25 in front of the Crown Property Bureau in Bangkok.

Following protests in the capital earlier this week, police have confirmed they plan to charge over 30 protesters over a rally outside the Parliament building on Tuesday and another gathering outside police headquarters the following day. On Tuesday, violent clashes broke out between pro and anti-establishment groups that resulted in 55 people being injured, 6 of whom were shot.

Police, who were trying to prevent pro-democracy protesters from getting to the front of the parliament building to conduct their protest, retreated, allowing the two rival factions to engage each other directly.

The evening after, protesters threw paint at the Royal Thai Police sign outside the headquarters building and police say they defaced walls and damaged a number of police vehicles.

Last June HM the King expressly asked PM Prayut not to use the draconian lèse majesté laws.

The Bangkok Post reports that Piya Tawichai from the Metropolitan Police Bureau says officers have interviewed 3 gunshot victims and have confiscated the weapon of a royalist supporter who was arrested for bringing a gun to Tuesday’s protest. Police are determining if the gun matches a number of bullet casings found at the scene.

Police have also announced that they are hunting another man seen on CCTV footage, who was wearing a pink raincoat and appeared to be firing a gun at protesters. Piya says he does not appear to belong to either side as he had fired at both royalist and anti-government groups.

Piya has confirmed that 31 people from both factions will be charged with a number of offences that took place outside Parliament on Tuesday and again outside police headquarters on Wednesday. He adds that they will be called in next week to face charges which include attempted murder, damaging government property, assault, disorder, and gathering without prior approval. Police have previously said that out of 4 groups present, only 3 had obtained permission to assemble.

Meanwhile, 2 members of the “Bad Students” protest group have been summoned to appear at Lumpini police station to face charges of violating the emergency decree, for their role in an anti-government rally on October 15. The group is planning another protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection in the capital today, with Piya confirming 900 riot police will be on duty.

The Bad Students have been specifically targeting systemic problems in the Thai education system, from sexual abuse and harassment of students, to changes to the country’s school rules about uniforms and haircuts.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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