Thai actor Inthira “Sai” Charoenpura was charged Monday with allegedly contravening Thailand’s lèse-majesté law which prohibits defaming the royal family despite occasions of her speaking publicly about the monarchy being unknown.
The Associated Press reported that Charoenpura, among other protestors, answered a police summons to hear their charges of allegedly contravening section 112 of the Thailand Criminal Code. The heavily-criticized section provides that “[w]hoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”
Charoenpura, according to the Associated Press, did not legally acknowledge her charge. However, commentators have acknowledged the unusual nature of the charge. Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher Sunai Phasuk commented that charging Charoenpura illustrates net widening of the application of section 112 given that it appears Thailand authorities now use the law to prosecute accessories to actions deemed offensive to the country’s monarchy.
Charoenpura is well-known as a supporter of Thailand’s pro-democracy protests. As part of her support, she has donated food and equipment to protestors. “It is ridiculous that I supplied food and got this charge,” Charoenpura commented. “Does it mean anybody can face the same situation if they are not on the government’s side? I am not worried. I will continue supporting the rallies no matter what.”
The United Nations expressed that it is deeply concerned by the use of section 112 against protestors. In a statement, it said “[w]e call on the Government of Thailand to stop the repeated use of such serious criminal charges against individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful expression and peaceful assembly.”
Thailand’s pro-democracy protests have been taking place since early this year in response to the acceptance of a new constitution in 2019. The constitution provides significant space for military involvement in the government. The protestors are seeking a new constitution or amendments to the current constitution to improve democracy; for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign; and recently, for changes to the monarchy including making it accountable to public criticism.
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