© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa speaks throughout a Thai anti-government mass protest, on the forty seventh anniversary of the 1973 pupil rebellion, in entrance of the Democracy monument, in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
By Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Within the 12 months since making an unprecedented, taboo-breaking speech brazenly calling for dialogue on the function of Thailand’s highly effective king, human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa has spent months in jail, charged with the crime of defaming the monarchy.
He is one among 103 folks from Thailand’s youth-led anti-government protests now charged with insulting or threatening King Maha Vajiralongkorn or his instant household, a criminal offense punishable by as much as 15 years’ imprisonment. A whole bunch extra face different legal prices.
Arnon, 36, says he has no regrets and vows the prosecutions will not crush the anti-government motion, which in current weeks has been constructing once more.
“I believe it has been worthwhile. Now the society can transfer ahead and folks can discuss in regards to the monarchy,” Arnon informed Reuters in an interview whereas awaiting trial. He denies any wrongdoing.
The king has historically been portrayed as above reproach in conservative Thai tradition, and any criticism of the monarch – whom some have considered as semi-divine – is taboo in addition to unlawful.
Arnon, nonetheless, says speaking brazenly in regards to the monarchy is important within the push for democratic reform and the ouster of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who first got here to energy in a 2014 coup and has lengthy related himself with loyalty to the king.
Authorities spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri on Monday defended the legal instances in opposition to protesters.
“Typically the protests weren’t peaceable … when there may be violence the police should preserve peace,” Anucha mentioned.
The palace has mentioned it is not going to reply to questions on the protests. Prayuth’s workplace says he retained energy in free and truthful elections in 2019.
The anti-government motion was already constructing final 12 months when Arnon’s late-night speech at an Aug. 3 Harry Potter-themed protest helped electrify it.
For months afterwards, hundreds poured onto the streets, at instances clashing with the police.
FAMILIAR LEGAL TACTIC
Since final 12 months, 695 protesters have been charged with crimes together with sedition and inflicting unrest. Amongst these 103 are charged with lese majeste, in keeping with Thai Legal professionals for Human Rights.
Analyst Titipol Phakdeewanich says Thailand’s military-royalist institution has for many years used royal insult legal guidelines to silence critics.
“The federal government is utilizing its outdated authorized tactic, which has been partially efficient in creating worry that has prevented extra folks from popping out publicly to speak in regards to the monarchy,” mentioned Titipol, dean of political science at Ubon Ratchathani College.
“However there are some folks that don’t care,” he mentioned.
Arnon, an adviser to the youth motion, faces 12 separate lese majeste instances and spent 113 days imprisoned earlier than being launched on bail in June.
Deputy police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen denied instances in opposition to protesters are politically motivated.
The protests slowed earlier this 12 months after key leaders have been jailed and a extreme outbreak of COVID-19 drove many inside.
However in current weeks, demonstrations have once more been constructing.
This time, it is not solely youth protesters.
In late June, a number of the authorities’s former allies took to the streets demanding Prayuth’s resignation over his dealing with of the worst COVID-19 outbreak so far.
Arnon mentioned the youth motion will proceed its struggle.
“If this was a soccer recreation, we’re removed from the ultimate whistle,” Arnon mentioned.