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Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, former Secretary-General of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, has been accused of sedition in relation to a discussion in the Clubhouse application over the burning of a royal portrait. 

Piyabutr Sangkanokkul at Nang Loeng Police Station (Photo by Move Forward Party media team)

On 17 April 2023, Piyabutr appeared at Nang Loeng Police Station to acknowledge an accusation of sedition filed by Nattaporn Toprayoon, a former advisor to the Chief Ombudsman who has acted as a lawyer for the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the Thai Patriots Network, and other right-wing groups. 

Nattaporn has a history of filing complaints against those he accuses of being anti-royal. In June 2019, Nattaporn filed a complaint against the Future Forward Party, accusing its leaders of sedition and being anti-monarchy. He also accused the party of being linked to the Illuminati, a fictitious secret organization believed by conspiracy theorists to be seeking world domination. The Constitutional Court later acquitted them, citing insufficient evidence.

In August 2020, Nattaporn filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court, accusing 8 activists who spoke at the 3 August and 10 August 2020 demonstrations of treason for calling for monarchy reform, leading to the court’s 10 November 2021 ruling that calls for monarchy reform and related activities constitute an abuse of constitutional rights and liberties as they are intended to overthrow the democratic form of government with the King as Head of State.

Piyabutr, who is now helping with the Move Forward Party campaign in the upcoming election, said he was not aware of Nattaporn’s complaint until he came back from the election campaign on 7 March 2023. He attempted to postpone the meeting with the officers due to his tight election campaign schedule, but a second warrant was issued.

The accusation stems from a discussion on royal defamation in 2021 involving Piyabutr on the social audio application Clubhouse in relation to the burning of a royal portrait allegedly by singer-turned-activist Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, a former member of The Bottom Blues. During the discussion, Piyabutr presented case studies from Thailand and overseas which have been dismissed by courts. 

Piyabutr stated that his aim during the discussion was to ease the intension between both sides, and discussion of this kind is common in law school. Piyabutr denied the charge and claimed that he is always cautious when expressing his opinions. He insisted that his contribution to the discussion was not within the scope of the law on sedition and plans to prepare evidence and witnesses to defend himself against the allegation within 30 days. 

He suggested officers should use their judgment to prevent the law from being misused and urged the investigation officers to be more aware of the charges. He pointed out that in recent years, many Section 116 charges have been filed but most of them have been dismissed. He added that issuing warrants on every complaint is unnecessary. “If the investigation officers use their discretion, it could help decrease baseless complaints like this,” he said. 

“Section 116 of the Criminal Code has the problem of being written very broadly. This has opened the way for ‘complainants’ filing charges everywhere. This shows that this law has problems and the way it is used has problems,” Piyabutr said.

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