Royal Defamation Case Against Pannika Moves Forward

A file photo of Future Forward spokeswoman Pannika Wanich.

BANGKOK — A transparency activist said Tuesday he was summoned by the anti-graft agency to testify in an inquiry into allegations that the Future Forward spokeswoman disrespected the monarchy. 

Srisuwan Janya, who filed the royal defamation complaint against Future Forward Party’s Pannika Wanich in June, said he will meet the National Anti-Corruption Commission on Thursday to give testimony. Srisuwan wants Pannika removed from office, on allegations that Pannika mocked the late King Bhumibol in a 2010 graduation photo

Srisuwan said he filed the request for Pannika’s removal because a parliament regulation says MPs must uphold the monarchy and refrain from acts that bring “disgrace” to Parliament.

Srisuwan’s complaint came after the resurfacing in June of a photo showing Pannika and her friends in graduation gowns making faces at a portrait of King Bhumibol, drawing much condemnation from hardline supporters of the monarchy. The photo was first published by her classmates in a public Facebook post nine years ago.

Several other people have also filed criminal complaints against Pannika for the alleged insult, though police have yet to charge Pannika with any crime. Royal defamation is punishable by up to 15 years in jail under the lese majeste law.

Khaosod English has been instructed by Khaosod management not to reproduce the image for fear of legal consequences.

Pannika is currently on an overseas trip in Europe to meet foreign political leaders, her party said.

In a media interview in the wake of the controversy, Pannika apologized for any distress the photo might have caused. She said, at the time of the photo, she was trying to make a point about the monarchy being weaponized to hurt political opponents.

“It was easy to land anyone in jail just by pointing at them and saying that they weren’t loyal. This hate mongering led us youths to talk about it ironically, to reflect on the tragedy affecting Thai society,” she said.

The spokeswoman said neither she or her party had any intent to overthrow or insult the Royal Family, despite frequent allegations from junta supporters.