The government in Thailand has revived the law against criticizing the King to curb the ongoing anti-government protests. Under the law, several activists and protesters have been summoned to face the charges, and each count carries a sentence up to fifteen years in prison.
It is the first time that such charges have been filed and come as student-led mass protests rock the country in the last two months. They are demanding a change in the country’s monarchy and calling on the incumbent Prime Minister to resign and conduct important constitutional reforms. Local media reports suggest seven key activists and protesters have received the summons. Meanwhile, other prominent human rights activists are also expected to face the same charges under the new law.
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The lèse-majesté law, which prohibits criticizing Thailand’s monarchy, is considered among the world’s toughest. The revival of the law comes ahead of the planned protests outside the Crown Property Bureau, a government institution in Bangkok that oversees the royal fortune.
The latest decision to revive the strict law follows an outspoken criticism of the country’s king–who is accused of running the country from Germany – by students and protesters across Thailand. Protesters on the streets of Bangkok have also demanded the reversal of the extended powers of the king. Some of them are the powers to declare the royal/crown wealth as his fortune, which makes him by far the richest man in the country.
King Vajiralongkorn’s decision to take control of the military power based in the capital has also raised concerns in the civil society, especially among the youth. Last week, 41 protesters were injured following the clashes between the law enforcement and protesters as students were attempting to reach the parliament building, where the country’s legislators were discussing potential constitutional changes.
Protesters hurled bags of paint and smoke bombs at the riot police, and they responded with tear gas and water cannons. Thailand has a long political history of protests and unrest. However, this recent wave of demonstrations started in February, when the country’s court ordered a pro-democracy party to dissolve. The student-led protests were re-energized after a prominent activist went missing.
Since the 2014 coup, Wanchalearm Satsaksit had been living in Cambodia. Pro-democracy activists and protesters have accused the state of orchestrating his kidnapping, a charge the government officials have categorically denied.
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