Benja Apan speaking at the 3 September 2021 protest

Student activist faces another royal defamation charge

Another royal defamation complaint has been filed against student activist Benja Apan for a speech given during a protest on 3 September 2021.

The complaint was filed by Rapeepong Chaiyarut, a member of the ultra-royalist group, People’s Centre to Protect the Monarchy.  He claims that Benja insulted the monarchy in a speech she gave at the protest.  Citing police records, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that Benja was accused of royal defamation for speaking of her dream to see a democratic society in which everyone is equal and power belongs to the people, not MPs, senators, capitalists, the military, and the elites. During her speech, she also mentioned King Bhumibol and King Vajiralongkorn as being part of a network of elites that support each other.

The 3 September 2021 protest took place at Ratchaprasong Intersection. It was called by activist groups United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration and Thalufah to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, a new Constitution, and monarchy reform. Benja and 16 other protesters were previously charged with violation of Covid-19 regulations issued under the Emergency Decree and for blocking a public road in October 2021. The case is still with the police and has not been submitted to a public prosecutor for indictment.

TLHR said that Benja reported to the police to hear the royal defamation charge on Wednesday (16 August) after receiving a police summons. TLHR also noted that they were told by the police that they sent a summons to Benja once before, but she did not receive it, so they sent her another summons, which she received.

Another student activist, Kiattichai Tangpornphan, was also charged with royal defamation for a speech he gave at the 3 September 2021 protest. Kiattichai was among the 17 protesters charged with violation of the Emergency Decree and blocking a public road. He received a summons this July to report to a police after Rapeepong filed a royal defamation complaint against him.

TLHR said that Kiattichai was accused of royal defamation for giving a speech criticising the government for damaging the monarchy. By way of example, he cited amending sections relating to the monarchy in the 2017 Constitution, increasing budget given to the monarchy, using the royal defamation law against critics, and allowing the SiamBioScience company to produce Covid-19 vaccine.

At least 256 people have been charged with royal defamation since the start of the student-led protests in 2020. Benja is now facing 8 counts of the charge, while Kiattichai is facing 4 counts.

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