Thai activists arrested over royal motorcade protest
February 13, 2024 06:55 PM
Thai police on Tuesday arrested two activists on sedition charges after they reportedly tried to interfere with a royal motorcade in the latest challenge to the kingdom's monarchy.
Tantawan Tuatulanon and Nattanon Chaimahabutr were held over the February 4 incident in which local media said they tried to interrupt the convey of the king's sister Princess Sirindhorn by honking their car horn and cutting into its lane.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), a legal rights group, said the pair also face charges under the Computer Crimes Act.
"There are other minor charges such as disturbing the authorities and the breaking of some traffic law," their lawyer Krissadang Nutcharas told AFP.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn is officially a revered, semi-divine figure in Thai society and is protected by some of the world's strictest lese-majeste laws.
But long-held taboos around discussing the royal family were undermined by a youth-led protest movement that erupted in 2020.
Tantawan, 22, already faced lese-majeste charges and went on hunger strike alongside another activist for 50 days last year urging political parties to support abolishing the law.
Legal observers and rights campaigners say the royal defamation legislation and other laws -- including the Computer Crimes Act -- are interpreted so broadly that they have become a tool to target dissent.
TLHR says more than 250 people have faced royal insult charges in the wake of the 2020 demonstrations, including protest leaders and at least one elected MP.
The Constitutional Court dealt a major blow to reformers last month when it ruled that the Move Forward Party's (MFP) election pledge to change the lese-majeste was unlawful.
MFP won most seats in last May's election but was blocked from forming a government by conservative forces, ostensibly because of its wish to reform lese-majeste.