BANGKOK — The parents of former princess Srirasmi confessed to charges of defaming the Thai monarchy today, reversing their earlier pleas of innocence.
The pair was then taken to the Criminal Court, where judges will deliberate on whether to release them on bail. Police say they will urge the court to deny the couple bail, citing the "severity" of the lese majeste allegations. The suspects were accompanied by Panita Suwadee, the sister of former princess Srirasmi.
Pol.Maj.Gen. Thitirat Nongharnpitak insisted that Apiruj and Wantanee were not pressured into confessing. "No one forced them to. No one coerced or threatened them in any way," Pol.Maj.Gen. Thitirat said.
Apiruj and Wantanee are the latest members of former Prince Srirasmi's family to be charged with lese majeste in recent months. Srirasmi resigned from the Royal Family in December 2014 after several of her brother, sister, and uncle were arrested on charges of lese majeste and running a massive crime ring.
Speculation about the scandal, one of the biggest to rock the palace in recent years, reached a fever pitch after Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn stripped Srirasmi's entire family of the royally-bestowed surname Akharaphongpreecha, forcing them to revert back to their "commoner" surname, Suwadee, in November. Srirasmi's resignation from the Royal Family followed a few weeks later.
Panita, the sister of former princess Srirasmi who accompanied her parents to the police headquarters today, insisted that no members of the Royal Family were aware of the alleged crime syndicate run by Srirasmi's uncle, Pol.Lt.Gen. Pongpat Chayaphan.
"I'd like all of you [the media] to understand about the monarchy. All of the things that happened, the monarchy was not aware of them at all," Panita said. "Our family doesn't know about it neither. We have been serving the monarchy with our loyal hearts. So I'd you to know that all the illegal casinos and other cases are not connected to the monarchy at all. They are connected only to Pongpat. He claimed his ties to the monarchy on his own."
Police have identified Pol.Lt.Gen. Pongpat and Srirasmi's brother, Pol.Col. Nattapong Suwadee, as the masterminds behind the massive graft ring involved in racketeering, operating illegal gambling dens, and oil smuggling.
After her royal resignation, Srirasmi moved out of the Crown Prince's palace in Bangkok to live with her parents in Ratchaburi province and has not been seen in public since 13 December, when she applied for a new national ID card as a commoner. She later issued a statement requesting privacy from the crowd of reporters who were camping in front of her residence.
It is unclear whether Srirasmi and the Crown Prince are formally divorced. The couple married in 2001 and have one 9-year-old son.