Thai police arrest student after king’s portraits are vandalised
BANGKOK (THAILAND) – A student activist has been arrested and charged under Thailand’s strict laws for disrespecting the monarchy after he was accused of vandalising portraits of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, his lawyer and police said on Thursday.
Sirichai Nathuang, 21, a student at Bangkok’s Thammasat University, is one of at least 40 activists charged with “lese majeste” since November. This has happened amid protests urging for the resignation of former junta leader Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Breaches of the law, or section 112 of the criminal code, have penalties of up to 15 years in prison.
Portraits of the king are seen everywhere in city streets in Thailand, as well as most schools and businesses.
Sirichai was accused of spray-painting messages on a few of those portraits earlier this week and was taken into custody on Wednesday night, said Noraset Nanongtoom of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group.
Noraset told adding his client was released on bail.”Sirichai denied all accusations and will fight the case,”
Defacing a royal portrait was almost unheard of during the reign of the king’s father, who died in 2016 after 70 years on the throne.
Noraset said Sirichai is accused by police of spraying messages calling for the abolition of the lese majeste law.
He said his client was the first of the protesters to be arrested under the law, while about 40 others were charged but not arrested.
Police deputy spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen said police acted in accordance with the law. “There are no double standards,” he said.
“The use of Section 112 in the current situation will only worsen the relationship between the king and the people in a democratic society,” party secretary-general Chaithawat Tulathon said in a statement.