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The Central Juvenile and Family Court on Thursday (20 July) found activist Noppasin Treelayapewat guilty of royal defamation for wearing a crop top to a mock fashion show during a protest in October 2020, when he was 16 years old.

Noppasin Treelayapewat wearing a black croptop during the mock fashion show. The words on his back read "My father's name is Mana."

At the “Ratsadorn Catwalk” fashion show, staged at the 29 October 2020 protest, Noppasin is alleged to have mocked the King by wearing a black crop top with the message “My father’s name is Mana, not Vajiralongkorn” written on his back. He was charged with royal defamation under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code after a complaint was filed against him by Waritsanun Sribawornthanakit, who runs a pro-establishment Facebook page.

The ”Ratsadorn Catwalk” took place after it was reported that the Ministry of Commerce received a 13-million baht budget for the overseas exhibition of new products by the Sirivannavari brand, a fashion label owned by the King’s younger daughter, Princess Sirivannavari.

The 29 October 2020 protest took place on the same day that Sirivannavari’s new collection was being launched at the nearby Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Although there were no speeches, protesters participated in the fashion show, performed, and exhibited artwork to support monarchy reform.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that, on Thursday (20 July), the Central Juvenile and Family Court found Noppasin guilty of royal defamation for mocking the King by dressing and acting like him. He was also found guilty of violating Covid-19 prevention regulations under the Emergency Decree because he did not wear a mask while participating in the protest, although the Court said that there was no significant report that people caught Covid-19 from the protest.

The court sentenced him to 3 years in prison for royal defamation, reduced to 1 years and 6 months because he committed the offence as a minor, and fined him 6,000 baht for violating the Emergency Decree.

Because he gave useful testimony, the Court reduced his sentence again to 1 year in prison and a fine of 4,000 baht. It also said that, because it was his first criminal charge and because it believes he is capable of improving himself, it suspended his prison sentence for 2 years, during which he must report to a probation officer every 3 months.

Waritsanun also filed a complaint against Jatuporn Sae-Ung, 23, for participating in the same protest. Jatuporn is alleged to have ridiculed the Queen by wearing a pink Thai traditional dress to the fashion show and walking along a red carpet under an umbrella held by another protester.

In September 2022, Jatuporn was found guilty of royal defamation and a violation of the Public Assembly Act and sentenced to 3 years in prison and a fine of 1,500 baht.  It then reduced her sentence to 2 years in prison and a fine of 4,000 baht because she gave useful testimony. She was later granted bail to appeal the case.

Noppasin told Prachatai ahead of his sentencing that he was prepared to be detained. He noted that, when Jatuporn was sentenced, she spent a week in detention before being granted bail, and asked how the court is going to be held responsible for damages to her life if the Appeal Court finds her not guilty.

Noppasin said he did not intend on dressing like King Vajiralongkorn. He wore a t-shirt to the protest but purchased the crop top at the protest, while a friend wrote the message on his back.

“There shouldn’t be a problem with wearing a shirt and having words written on your body. I wasn’t imitating anyone. It was just fashion that anyone can wear,” he said.

His life has changed after becoming an activist. Not only has been been charged with three counts of royal defamation, he has also been assaulted by officers and shot with rubber bullets during protests. He has to go to court 3-4 times per week, meaning that he has almost no free time – something he said is not a life a teenager should have.

Nevertheless, Noppasin said he is not afraid of the royal defamation law, even if he is imprisoned. He believes that the royal defamation law should be repealed, since it has been used to attack political dissidents and that people will continue to be charged with it if the law still exists, while no one should go to prison for criticizing someone else. He also said that it is “disgusting” that royal defamation complaints are now being filed against children as young as 13, and asked how the authorities will take responsibility for children who have to go through the complicated trial process of a juvenile court when a minor under 15 does not have to be punished for a crime.

Ahead of Noppasin’s sentencing, Amnesty International issued a statement calling for the Thai authorities to drop charges against him and end the prosecution of child protesters.

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