BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): Police arrested a 24-year-old man on Tuesday (March 28) evening as he graffitied a message protesting the lese majeste law on the wall of Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, in Bangkok’s Phra Nakhon district.
The suspect, Suttawee Soikham, used black spray to paint and cross out the number 112 on the wall of the temple commonly known as Wat Phra Kaew, which is located in the same complex as the Grand Palace near the royal field of Sanam Luang.
Section 112 of the Criminal Code, better known as the lese majeste law, states that “whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years”.
A video posted on Suttawee’s Facebook page shows him making no attempt to escape arrest as two police officers rush to the spot, knock him to the ground and handcuff him. Officers quickly erected a white sheet to hide the graffiti from view.
Police said initial investigation revealed that Suttawee is a freelance artist and a member of the “Free People” pro-democracy group. They said he has posted several messages protesting the anti-lese majeste law on his Facebook page, which has nearly 2,000 followers.
Shortly after the arrest, Kunthika Nutcharut, the lawyer for activists Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon and Orawan “Bam” Phuphong showed up at the Royal Palace police station to check up on Suttawee. However, Suttawee was transported to Metropolitan Police Division 6 for interrogation.
Man arrested painting anti-lese majeste law message at Temple of Emerald Buddha
Tantawan and Orawan ended their 52-day hunger strike, demanding the release of all political prisoners and the abolition of the lese majeste and sedition laws, earlier this month.
At least 1,888 people have been prosecuted for political activity since the latest wave of youth-led pro-democracy protests began in 2020, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.
As of 9.30pm on Tuesday, officials had finished painting over the anti-Section 112 message on the wall of Wat Phra Kaew, which is one of Bangkok’s most famous tourist attractions.