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Thai singer and TV personality Suthipongse ‘Heart’ Thatphithakkul has been indicted on charges of royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act. The charges were filed against him for Facebook posts he wrote in 2020 criticising the government’s Covid-19 vaccine policy.

One of the posts said “The medicine of the boss is not selling. The stock is not moving. The lackeys have to come out to help with the marketing (I copied this from someone else) #vaccine monopoly, unless you are really ruthless, cannot be done.”

The complaint against him was filed in May 2021 by Apiwat Kantong, then a lawyer in the Office of the Prime Minister under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. Apiwat said he believed that the “boss” mentioned in the post was a reference to the monarchy, and that the post constitute an offence under the royal defamation law even if Suthipongse copied the message from someone else.

Suthipongse is among several people facing a royal defamation charge for criticising the government’s Covid-19 vaccine policy during the pandemic. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, former leader of the now-defunct Future Forward Party and current leader of the Progressive Movement, was charged with royal defamation over an 18 January 2021 Facebook live broadcast, during which he said that the Thai government only bought vaccines from AstraZeneca and Sinovac because it wanted to support Siam BioScience Co. Ltd.

Siam BioScience was the only company in Thailand licensed to produce the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Nikkei Asia reported that King Vajiralongkorn owned all but 2 of the company’s shares.

Thanathorn was indicted in April 2022. Meanwhile, a court order was issued banning the video.

Student activists Benja Apan and Parit Chiwarak were charged with royal defamation, violation of the Emergency Decree, the Communicable Diseases Act, and the Sound Amplifier Act for a 25 January 2021 protest at the Srijulsup building, where Siam BioScience’s registered office is located.

5 students in Lampang were also charged with royal defamation for displaying a banner saying “Budget for monarchy > Covid-19 vaccines.” A student at the Rajabhat University, Chiang Rai, was later charged with royal defamation for posting a picture of the banner onto the Facebook page “Free Youth – CEI.” Police believe that she was involved in hanging the banner near to King Vajiralongkorn’s portrait.

On 3 March 2021, activist Piyarat Chongthep, now a Move Forward Party MP, was charged with royal defamation for 7 protest signs against the government’s vaccine policy and for posting pictures of the signs.

A 30-year-old man from Nonthaburi was charged with royal defamation for sharing Facebook posts alleging that Siam BioScience was using taxpayer’s money to produce the vaccines. He was indicted in June 2023. In October 2023, he was found guilty and given a suspended sentence of 1 year and 6 months.

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