Police to charge protest leaders with royal insult

THAI police have summoned seven leaders of anti-government protests to face charges of lese majeste over comments made at demonstrations that demanded reforms to the monarchy, a police source and a rights group said.

It will be the first time such charges have been brought under lese majeste laws relating to insults to the royal family in over two years. They can carry up to 15 years in prison.

Protests that began in July against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha have increasingly turned to demands to curb the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, breaking a longstanding taboo on criticising the monarchy.

The police source, who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media, said yesterday that the protest leaders had until Nov 30 to answer the summonses, which were brought over comments made at protests on Sept 19 and 20.

One of the seven, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, said his family had received a summons on the charges and he was not worried.

Others named included human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, who became the first to call for royal reforms on Aug 3, and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, a student leader who set out 10 demands for royal reforms.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said police had notified the protest leaders’ lawyers.

The summonses came a day before protesters have said they would march to the office that manages the royal fortune to demand that the king give up personal control of the assets.

Police said yesterday that no protesters would be allowed within 150m of the Crown Property Bureau.

Police had set up barbed wires around the bureau in Bangkok’s Dusit district.

Bangkok police chief Pol Lt-General Pakapong Phongpetra said police were not concerned about the protest and officers had been instructed to not carry weapons when controlling the rally.

More than 50 people were hurt last week when police used water cannon and tear gas against thousands of protesters at parliament

in the most violent day of more

than four months of demonstrations.

Among protesters’ demands is the reversal of changes that gave the king personal control over a royal fortune valued in the tens of billions of dollars.

The FreeYouth protest group said in a Twitter post that they would demonstrate today to “reclaim the property that is meant to belong to the people”.

Prayut has rejected protesters’ calls to resign and said last week that all laws would be used against protesters who break them. — Reuters/The Nation/ANN

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