A banner saying "We don't want an absolute monarchy" is seen hanging form the Pathumwan skywalk during the 14 November 2021 protest while protesters burned effigies of the 9 Constitutional Court judges. (File photo)

Activists charged with sedition, royal defamation over protest in 2021

Three activists have been charged with royal defamation and sedition for reading a statement and giving a speech during a protest in November 2021 after a complaint was filed against them by an ultra-royalist group leader.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that Chatchai Kaedam, Chatrapee Artsomboon, and Nawat Liangwattana reported to the police at Thungmahamek Police Station last Friday (1 March). The inquiry officer informed them that the charges resulted from a protest on 14 November 2021, when protesters marched to the German Embassy in Bangkok. The speeches of Chatchai and Chatrapee, as well as the group’s statement which Nawat read out, were deemed seditious and an offense under the royal defamation law.

The complaint against them was filed by Anon Klinkaew, leader of the ultra-royalist group People’s Centre to Protect the Monarchy, who has filed several royal defamation complaints against activists and netizens and has been involved in attacks on pro-democracy activists and citizen journalists.

The 14 November 2021 protest came after the Constitutional Court’s ruling that calls for monarchy reform constitute an attempt to overthrow the “democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.” Activists initially planned to march from the Democracy Monument to Sanam Luang but were forced to relocate after facing a police blockade. Instead, they marched from the Pathumwan Intersection to the German Embassy, during which three people were shot in front of the Institute of Forensic Medicine.

At the German Embassy, three activists met with Embassy representatives and submitted their open letter. Nawat then read out a statement saying that the increased power of the monarchy is moving Thailand away from a democratic regime and towards an absolute monarchy, while royalists are trying to rewrite history so that the monarch has the power to rule the country and the people are reduced to mere inhabitants.

The statement said that it is therefore unavoidable that the monarchy’s expansion of power must be stopped to bring about democracy. It also insisted that they are not calling for an abolition of the regime but are fighting for a regime in which everyone is equal.

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