In the yr 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 rapid household, against the law punishable by as much as 15 years’ imprisonment. Hundreds extra face different legal prices.
Arnon, 36, says he has no regrets and vows the prosecutions won’t crush the anti-government motion, which in current weeks has been constructing once more.
“I think it has been worthwhile. Now the society can move forward and people can talk about the monarchy,” Arnon instructed Reuters in an interview whereas awaiting trial. He denies any wrongdoing.
Dozens gathered in central Bangkok on Tuesday to mark final yr’s protests and Arnon repeated the decision for reforming the monarchy, demanding the nation’s lawmakers to revoke the lese majeste regulation and switch again public property that the federal government has handed over to King Vajiralongkorn since his succession in 2016.
“One year has passed and not only did we not get an answer whether the king would change but we have also faced retalitions,” Arnon mentioned in a speech on Tuesday.
The king has historically been portrayed as above reproach in conservative Thai tradition, and any criticism of the monarch – whom some have seen as semi-divine – is taboo in addition to unlawful.
Arnon, nevertheless, says speaking brazenly concerning the monarchy is important within the push for democratic reform and the ousting 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.
Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri on Monday defended the legal instances towards protesters.
“Sometimes the protests were not peaceful … when there is violence the police must maintain peace,” Anucha mentioned.
The palace has mentioned it won’t 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 yr 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 occasions clashing with the police.
Since final yr, 695 protesters have been charged with crimes together with sedition and inflicting unrest. Among these, 103 are charged with lese majeste, in keeping with Thai Lawyers 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 government is using its old legal tactic, which has been partially effective in creating fear that has prevented more people from coming out publicly to talk about the monarchy,” mentioned Titipol, dean of political science at Ubon Ratchathani University.
“But there are some people that do not 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 towards protesters are politically motivated.
The protests slowed earlier this yr after key leaders had been jailed and a extreme outbreak of COVID-19 drove many inside.
But in current weeks, demonstrations have once more been constructing.
This time, it isn’t solely youth protesters.
In late June, among the authorities’s former allies took to the streets demanding Prayuth’s resignation over his dealing with of the worst COVID-19 outbreak to this point.
Arnon mentioned the youth motion would proceed its battle.
“If this was a football game, we are far from the final whistle,” Arnon mentioned.