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Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has reported that the Chiang Mai Provincial Court has dismissed a royal defamation charge against a performance artist, stating that the evidence presented by the prosecution did not show the defendant's malicious intent in relation to the offence.

On 8 May 2023, the Chiangmai Provincial Court delivered its verdict in the royal defamation case against Siwanchali ‘Ramil’ Withayaseriwat whose old name is Withaya Khlangnin, a performance artist and student at Chiang Mai University.

Photo from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights

The court said that the prosecution evidence did not indicate that Siwanchali’s action had malicious intent and his performance did not identify a specific person. Also, it was intended to demand the release of detained activists.

The royal defamation charge against Siwanchali was filed by Arnon Cherdchutrakulthong of the Chiang Mai City Police for a performance in front of Chiang Mai University on 1 May 2021. Siwanchali climbed onto the university’s name sign above which was a portrait of the King with the inscription “Long Live the King.” 

Siwanchali poured red paint all over himself, spoiling the sign and the portrait. His gestures during the performance included lying down with a foot pointing at the King’s portrait and mocking the posture of the garuda. According to one of the prosecution witnesses, the garuda is the national emblem and representation of the authority of the king. His actions were alleged to constitute royal defamation and disrespect towards the King.

On 5 October 2021, Siwanchali went to Phuping Rajanivej Police Station to hear the charge and denied the allegation. The inquiry officers filed the case with the prosecutor on 15 November 2021 who subsequently issued a prosecution order on 28 February 2022. 

This is the second royal defamation charge that Siwanchali has faced. He was previously charged under Section 112 for a piece of installation art during a protest on 14 March 2021.

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