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Over 100 Thai protesters charged with defaming monarchy since 2020: Advocacy group

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows Thai activist and human rights lawyer Arnon Nampha. (By AFP)

More than 100 Thai protesters have been charged with defaming Thailand’s monarchy since student-led pro-democracy protests kicked off in the country in July 2020, an advocacy group says.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, 695 protesters have been charged with crimes including causing unrest and creating insecurity since last year. One hundred and three Thai protesters have been charged under the lese majeste law, which carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison for insulting or threatening King Maha Vajiralongkorn or his immediate family.

The protest movement, which has been largely led by student activists, has demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former military government leader who masterminded a coup in 2014. The protesters have also openly called for curbing the king’s powers; but they have not sought the abolition of the monarchy.

Thai university student and political activist Parit Chiwarak, one of the main leaders of the 2020 protests, is currently facing 18 charges but has been granted bail as of May 2021. If found guilty, he faces a sentence of three to 15 years in jail per charge.

Arnon Nampa, a human rights lawyer and one of the 100 people from Thailand’s youth-led anti-government protests now charged under lese majeste, holds no regrets and believes the government won’t be able to crush the movement. He spent 113 days in prison before being released on bail in June.

Arnon said the youth movement would continue its fight and believes it to be worthwhile. He also told Reuters in an interview while awaiting trial, “Now the society can move forward and people can talk about the monarchy.”

But, he said, “If this was a football game, we are far from the final whistle.”

Demonstrations have been building again in recent weeks due to the conditional release of key protest leaders.

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