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Publishing house Samanchon Books has been asked to remove posters calling for the repeal of the royal defamation law which they displayed in their stall at the annual National Book Fair, due to ‘concerns’ from the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, where the fair is taking place.

On 29 March, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) posted pictures showing a group of men surrounding the stall, and said that they were plainclothes officers of unknown affiliation who came to check the Samanchon Books stall and removed the posters.

A witness told Prachatai that a group of men came to take down the posters during the night of 29 March, when no one was at the stall, and that employees arriving at the fair the next morning found the posters underneath a table in the stall. They were not damaged and none were missing.

Samanchon Books editor Vachira Buason said that he received a phone call from a member of the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand (PUBAT), the organization which organizes the annual book fair, asking him to remove the posters due to a request from the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre.

Vachira said that, by the time he received the phone call, Samanchon Books employees had already finished setting up the stall and gone home, and so he agreed to take the posters down the next day. However, the convention centre’s security officers came to take down the posters during the night, and although he said he gave them permission to do so on the condition that the posters are not damaged or missing, he was not sure why they could not wait.

Nevertheless, he speculated that centre employees were being overly concerned about the posters because Princess Sirindhorn, King Vajiralongkorn’s younger sister, would be opening the fair the next day and visiting publishers participating in the fair.

“I think they’re too sensitive,” Vachira said. “Personally, I feel that making this much of a fuss about it is being hysterical. It’s more of a joke to me.”

Vachira said that he believes the men who took down the posters were the centre’s security officers, rather than police officers. He said that he is not planning to press charges, and that his publishing house has no conflict with PUBAT.

The posters lining Samanchon Books' stall before they were taken down (Photo from Vachira Buason)

There were also reports that plainclothes officers were seen around Samanchon Books’ stall the next day (30 March), which was the first day of the fair. An employee saw them taking photos of the stall, and that the men hid their mobile phone after an employee went to see what they were photographing.

Plainclothes officers were also seen at stalls run by Same Sky Books and the Progressive Movement, a non-profit formed by leaders of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party.

Journalist Sa-nguan Khumrungroj also reported on Sunday (2 April) that uniformed police officers were seen around several stalls at the fair, including Samanchon Books, which replaced the removed posters with new ones showing the number “123” with a strike through it. Sa-nguan said that an officer told the publisher that the posters were not illegal, but not to publish pictures of them.

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