A Criminal Court has accepted a Lese Majeste case filed by the prosecution against Thai Billionaire Mr. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, chairman of the Progressive Movement.
The prosecution has charged him with Lese Majeste for his Facebook Live on Jan 18, 2021, criticizing the Prayut government’s Covid-19 vaccine procurement plan.
According to Mr. Thanathorn’s lawyer, prosecutors decided on Monday to indict him for violation of Section 112, the Lese Majeste law, of the Criminal Code, and the Computer Crimes Act, as police investigators recommended.
Outside the courtroom, Mr. Thanathorn declared that he believed the case was politically motivated and vowed to contest the charges.
In my opinion, one of the objectives is to silence me, to make the public afraid. So, if they can just keep us quiet, keep our mouths shut, they will win,” he said.
Siam Bioscience Company
The Progressive Movement later reported to the media that Mr. Thanathorn was indicted for referring to His Majesty the King when discussing the government’s procurement of vaccine against Covid-19 from Siam Bioscience Company, a Thai biopharmaceuticals manufacturer.
Siam Bioscience is owned by the King.
As stated in the indictment, Mr. Thanathorn’s remark was intended to cause the public to distrust the King.
The court granted Mr. Thanathorn a bail application after he was charged with a crime. With a 90,000 baht surety, he was released on bail.
The Lese Majeste Law in Thailand
Thailand’s lese-majeste law prohibits insulting the monarchy and is among the strictest in the world.
Ever since the military took power in 2014 in a coup, it has become increasingly enforced, and many people have been sentenced to harsh prison terms.
The United Nations has repeatedly called on Thailand to amend the law due to claims that the military-backed government uses it to suppress free speech.
Thailand’s government says the law is necessary to protect the monarchy, which is widely venerated.
According to Thailand’s article 112 of the penal code, anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” will be sentenced to prison for between three and 15 years.
Since the first criminal code was created in 1908, this law has remained virtually unchanged, though the punishment was increased in 1976.