Two protesters arrested for royal defamation, denied bail

Two protesters arrested on Thursday (9 March) and charged with royal defamation and contempt of court for singing and speaking at a protest in July 2022 have been denied bail.

Chen Chiwabancha (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Chen Chiwabancha, a 55-year-old YouTuber, was arrested at around 16.00 on Thursday (9 March) while at a protest in front of the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court. He was arrested on a warrant from the South Bangkok Criminal Court on charges of royal defamation, contempt of court, defamation by publication, and using a sound amplifier without permission. TLHR noted that he had never received a summons before being arrested.

While Chen was detained at Yannawa Police Station, at around 18.25, police also arrested Ngoentra Khamsaen, a regular protest-goer also known as Mani, who went to Yannawa Police Station after Chen was arrested. She faced the same charges as Chen, and also had never received a summons before being arrested.

Ngoentra Khamsaen having her head shaved during a protest

TLHR reported that the charges result from a protest on 28 July 2022 in front of the South Bangkok Criminal Court, and that they were filed by the Court of Justice. The police claimed that the protesters gave speeches without requesting permission to use a sound amplifier and put up banners insulting the court. They also sang a song called “Lucky to have Thai people,” which the police claimed insults the monarchy.

The song was written by the protest band Faiyen, known for writing songs critical of the monarchy. Members of the band have been charged with royal defamation and fled the country after the 2014 coup.

Lucky to have Thai people” [link blocked in Thaiand] is a song about how Thai people are made to love the King through many means and the punishment the people will face if they do not love the King.

Another protester has previously been arrested for singing the song during a protest in August 2022. TLHR also reported 4 other cases in which someone has been charged with royal defamation for singing or playing the song. In all 5 cases, the accused was granted bail.

Chen and Ngoentra were detained overnight at Yannawa Police Station. They were taken to the South Bangkok Criminal Court the following morning for a temporary detention request and were denied bail. The court claimed that the charges carry a high penalty and that they are likely to flee or commit other dangerous offence. The order was signed by judge Phaibun Thongnuam.

Ngoentra has previously been detained when she was arrested in August 2022 on charges of contempt of court, defamation, and using a sound amplifier without permission relating to a protest on 15 July 2022. She was denied bail and detained for 9 days before being granted bail.


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