Teenager indicted for royal defamation over burning King’s portrait

A teenager has been indicted for royal defamation after a prosecutor in the Office of the Attorney General ruled that burning a portrait of the King is the same as burning the King himself.

Fire lit on the road during the 6 September 2021 protest at Din Daeng (Photo by Zee Faozee/iLaw)

K. was arrested on 8 September 2021, when he was 17 years old, along with another student. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said they were arrested without a warrant and were detained for around 20 hours, during which their clothes, mobile phones, and motorcycles were confiscated. They were also questioned about protests in the Din Daeng intersection area. The police also requested an arrest warrant after searching their residences and confiscating their belongings.

TLHR said that K. was charged with royal defamation, arson, participating in a gathering of more than 10 people and causing public disorder, and violation of the curfew imposed under the Emergency Decree for allegedly shooting a slingshot and setting fire to a royal ceremonial arch near the Din Daeng intersection during a protest on 6 September 2021.

K. was indicted last Friday (26 May). TLHR said that Somsawat Thepnamsomanay, a public prosecutor at the Office of the Attorney General’s Family and Juvenile Case Division, ruled that setting fire to a ceremonial arch containing a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn is an offence under the royal defamation law because a portrait of the King is a representation of the King himself, and therefore burning the portrait is the same as burning the King himself and shows that the protesters involved wanted to destroy the monarchy.

The prosecutor also accused K. of throwing explosives and using a slingshot to shoot marbles at crowd control police during the protest and setting a fire on a public road, as well as tearing down the King’s portrait and stepping on it before setting fire to it.

K. was later granted bail on a security of 10,000-baht, covered by the Will of the People bail fund. The Central Juvenile and Family Court scheduled the first witness examination hearing on 24 July 2023.

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