Thai boy charged with royal libel for holding sign



Kittipon Thaingamsil joins long list of young Thais accused of defaming the monarchy

A model of the democracy monument built by activists is set on fire outside Thailand’s Constitutional Court in Bangkok on November 10, 2021, after the court ruled that three protesters’ demands on monarchy reform amounted to calls for the overthrow of the constitutional monarchy. (Photo: Jack Taylor/AFP)

A 19-year-old man in Thailand expects to be charged with royal libel for holding a sign at a pro-democracy rally.

Kittipon Thaingamsil, who lives in the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani, told a progressive website that he was visited last week by two plainclothes officers at his home with a warning to appear this week at a local police station to be formally charged with royal libel, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

The teenager said he believed he was charged because he stood in front of a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn, or Rama X, at a democracy rally in Ubon Ratchathani last August with a handwritten sign reading “I am starving in the reign of King Rama X.”

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Kittipon, who holds a degree in computer design from a vocational school, said his intention in holding the sign was to draw attention to his financial situation as he was unemployed.

The teenager said he struggled to make ends meet as he lived with his grandmother and sister.

In Thailand, where kings and royals have historically been portrayed as paragons of virtue above reproach, any criticism of the ruler, including previous kings, and the monarchy as an institution is against the law.

“We accept that Thailand is a monarchy, but we want it to be a constitutional monarchy like that of the United Kingdom”

Since November 2020, more than 180 mostly young Thais, including minors, have been charged with royal libel, some of them multiple times, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a group that provides legal aid to defendants. .

The growing number of accusations was seen by observers as an attempt by the Thai military-allied government, which seized power in a 2014 coup, to stifle dissent over the monarchy .

The youth-led protests, which erupted in force in 2020, have regularly featured calls for the reform of the monarchy along constitutional lines and the abolition of the royal libel law.

“We accept that Thailand is a monarchy, but we want it to be a constitutional monarchy like the UK’s,” a young pro-democracy activist who asked not to be named told UCA News.

“The monarchy is officially described as a benign institution that serves the interests of all Thais, but you cannot criticize it by law. What does that tell you?”

“Respect for human rights in Thailand has gone from bad to worse as the government’s promises of reform remain unfulfilled”

A prominent leader of the youth-led pro-democracy movement, Parit Chiwarak, a 23-year-old university student, has been charged with royal libel on 23 counts, meaning he could face up to 345 years in prison because everyone counts carries up to 15 years.

Several other leaders of the movement have been repeatedly charged in what rights advocates say is part of a concentrated effort by authorities to root out any vocal opposition to the regime.

“Thai authorities have prosecuted dissidents, violently dispersed peaceful protests, and censored news and social media. Respect for human rights in Thailand has gone from bad to worse as the government’s reform promises remain unfulfilled,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in January, commenting. the findings of a report by the rights group that documents the erosion of basic freedoms in the country.

“Critics of the monarchy have also been prosecuted under the sedition articles of the criminal code, cybercrime laws, and other legal provisions,” Human Rights Watch said.

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