BANGKOK — A university student facing life imprisonment for allegedly endangering Her Majesty the Queen wrote an article published in Time magazine insisting that he did nothing wrong.
Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothong, one of the three people charged with Article 110 of the Criminal Codes for committing “violence” against the Queen and Her Majesty’s liberty, spoke out about his ordeal in an article published Wednesday in Time magazine under the title, “I’m Facing Life in Prison for Violence Against the Thai Queen. I’m Innocent.”
“I was innocent then. I am still innocent now,” the 21-year-old wrote. “I think they are trying to make an example of me. But I daresay that what happened has just made a lot of people angrier.”
He continued, “Even though the incident was unfortunate for my wellbeing and mental health, I don’t think I regret going to the protest that day actually. I was just there to exercise my rights and my liberty as a citizen of this country.”
Police alleged that Bunkueanun along with pro-democracy activist Ekachai Hongkangwan and child welfare activist Suranat Paenprasert, deliberately blocked the motorcade carrying Queen Suthida and Prince Dipangkorn on Oct. 14 in front of Government House.
But eyewitnesses at the scene, including two Khaosod English correspondents, said the police did not give any clear warning to the protesters, who were already gathering on the road prior to the motorcade’s arrival. The demonstrators also appeared to be unaware of the convoy until police started pushing at the crowd to make way.
Witnesses said they did not see any protesters attacking the vehicle either, including Ekachai and Bunkueanun.
In the article, Bunkueanun said he was taken by surprise when he saw a royal convoy headed his way, behind a phalanx of police officers.
“I was like, sh-t. Because something is bound to be wrong if you’re in front of the royal motorcade,” he wrote. “I tried to calmly tell the protesters to move away from the police barriers so that the royal motorcade could move through.”
Bunkueanun, who studies at Mahidol University, also recalled that he was in complete shock when he found out the next day he was charged with endangering the Queen.
“ When I saw the charges I was like f–k me, excuse my language, but I was dumbstruck,” he wrote. He consulted with lawyers and decided to turn himself in the next day. “I just thought how historically perverted it is that I am one of the first being charged with this.”
He was granted bail by the court on Oct. 17; the judges said Bunkueanun was a student at a state university and posed no flight risk. The other two suspects, Ekachai and Suranat, were also freed on bail several weeks later, on Nov. 2.
Article 110 of the Criminal Codes outlaws any attempts to commit violence against Her Majesty the Queen and Her Liberty, at the pain of lifetime imprisonment. Bunkueanun is the first individual to be charged under the offense in recent history.
Correction: A paragraph spacing error in the previous version of this article appeared to quote Bunkueanun as saying that he regretted attending the protest on Oct. 14. In fact, the original quotes said he did not regret attending the protest.