Opposition leader Thanathorn indicted for lèse majesté, says he’s political target

Progressive Movement Chairman Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Credit: Sirakorn Lamyai | Wikimedia

Public prosecutors in Thailand have indicted Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit on a lèse majesté charge and for violating the Computer Crime Act on Monday. The charges centre on remarks he made during a livestream talk he gave last year, in which he discussed the government’s procurement of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and allegedly casting indirect suspicion on His Majesty the King.

After the indictment, Thanathorn was temporarily released on bail. Outside the court yesterday, he told reporters that he intends to contest the charges, which he thinks are politically motivated, saying…

“It is clear that I am one of the key opposition [leaders] and I think the objective is to silence me, to make the public afraid. So if we can keep silent, keep our mouths shut, they win.”

Police accused Thanathorn, who is the chairman of the Progressive Movement, of criticising the government for delaying its obtaining of Covid-19 vaccines, as well as for relying too heavily on the Astra Zeneca vaccine, supplied by Siam Bioscience Company. Thanathorn made the remarks during a speech that was broadcast on Facebook Live on January 18 last year.

Siam Bioscience was founded in 2009. It is financed and owned by a subsidiary of the Crown Property Bureau. The company has struck a deal with Oxford University and Astra Zeneca to produce the vaccine in Thailand using their technology, with the goal of administering the vaccine locally, as well as distributing it to other countries in Southeast Asia.

The indictment alleged that Thanathorn’s statements, which were published online, were intended to make the public look suspiciously at Thailand’s head of state. He has been granted a temporary release by the Criminal Court on a surety bail of 90,000 baht.

Thanathorn was the former leader of the Future Forward Party which polled the third highest number of votes in the 2019 general election, relegating the formerly powerful Democrats into fourth position.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | ThaiPBS

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Jay Shine

A longtime expat in Asia with a degree in journalism and creative writing. Highlights include writing for Condé Nast Traveller and Apple Music. In his spare time, Jay enjoys writing poetry, brewing traditional Chinese tea and lounging with his calico soi cat, Almond.

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