Man indicted for royal defamation for criticizing Siam Bioscience’s vaccine production

A 30-year-old man has been indicted under the royal defamation law and Computer-Related Crime Act over his criticism of Siam Bioscience’s COVID-19 vaccine production in 2021.

On 13 June 2023, Thai Lawyers For Human Rights reported that “Wave” (pseudonym) has been indicted for his shares and posts on Facebook criticizing Siam Bioscience, a Thai drug manufacturer owned by King Vajiralongkorn, for allegedly using taxpayer money in COVID-19 vaccine production.

On 23 May 2022, Wave appeared to acknowledge the charge at the Technology Crime Suppression Division where he rejected the accusation and was not apprehended.

The indictment stated that on 12 May 2021, he publicly shared and posted on Facebook a picture of King Vajiralongkorn, accompanied by a question about Siam Bioscience’s vaccine production. The complainant alleged that the message constituted defamation, insult, or malicious intent towards King Vajiralongkorn.

Wave was accused of intentionally damaging the highly respected monarchy, allegedly leading to the loss of respect towards the King who is inviolable. His message was also alleged to contain false information, involving an offence related to national security under the Criminal Code.

He denied all charges, and his lawyer submitted a bail request. The court granted bail with 90,000 baht as security and scheduled a witness hearing for 28 August 2023.

Wave is not the only person facing a charge of royal defamation for criticizing Siam Bioscience’s COVID-19 vaccine production. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the dissolved Future Forward party, also was indicted for royal defamation stemming from his video presentation in January 2021 titled “Royal Vaccine: Who Benefits and Who Doesn't?” which criticized the government’s slow procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and questioned why Siam Bioscience was the only company to strike a deal with AstraZeneca to produce its vaccine.

“I’m not the first person, and I won’t be the last to be gagged by Section 112 [of the Criminal Code] even though my criticism of the vaccine management was for the benefit of the people, out of a concern that Thai people would get vaccines too slowly and inefficiently. And time has proved that what I said was true. The vaccines that are now most effective are the mRNA type, not viral vector,” said Thanathorn.

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