Activists Face Possible Charges for ‘Yellow Duck Banknotes’

A protester shows the mock banknotes at a protest in front of the Siam Commercial Bank’s headquarters on Nov. 25, 2020.
A protester shows the mock banknotes at a protest in front of the Siam Commercial Bank’s headquarters on Nov. 25, 2020.

BANGKOK  — The country’s central bank on Thursday declined to comment on the news that police are set to press money counterfeit charges against activists who distributed mock banknotes at Wednesday’s anti-government protest.

The “banknotes,” which essentially function as coupons, were used by protesters to buy food from participating vendors close to the rally site in northern Bangkok yesterday. Transparency activist and serial petitioner Srisuwan Janya immediately urged police to prosecute the protesters for forgery.

“Those who produce, circulate, use, and accept the banknotes could be charged for violating the currency law, which prohibits the production of any material or token for money,” said Srisuwan, whose complaints in recent weeks were filed exclusively against the pro-democracy movement.

“They also face criminal charges of counterfeit money and using forged money.” he said on Wednesday.

Media reports said investigators at Phaholyothin Police Station, whose jurisdiction covers yesterday’s rally, are gathering evidence to press charges of violating the Currency Act against those who used the coupons.

The officers are also said to be examining messages written on the coupon to see whether they insult the monarchy, as punishable under Article 112 of the Criminal Codes Code.

Each of the coupons, or ‘banknote’ as dubbed by the protesters, bears the portrait of a rubber duck and image of the short-lived People’s Party 2020 plaque. The parody banknotes are the latest creation by demonstrators to ridicule the government and take a jab at the crown’s massive wealth.

A total of 3,000 coupons were handed out to protesters at Wednesday’s protest in front of the Siam Commercial Bank’s headquarters, where King Vajiralongkorn is the biggest shareholder.

They were valued at 10 baht each and could be used to purchase items from participating vendors around the protest site.

It is unclear if the duck banknotes could fall under the Currency Act – which bans outright forgery of money – since a similar system of cash coupons could be found at many festivals and food courts across the country.

Deputy metro police commander Jirapat Poomjit said he is unaware of ongoing prosecution related to the yellow duck coupons. However, he suggested that investigators may press charges if there is clear evidence of wrongdoing.

Calls to both Phaholyothin station’s superintendent and his deputy went unanswered as of press time.

If found guilty of money counterfeit, offenders face a life imprisonment and a maximum fine of 400,000 baht.

The Bank of Thailand, which oversees the circulation of Thai baht, has yet to make any comment on the matter.

A woman answering the phone at the central bank’s public relations department said she could not respond to questions as she was not authorized to speak on the subject.

The woman also suggested to the reporter that they read the agency’s responses in its Line media group. No such messages could be seen in the chat group.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the Siam Commercial Bank’s main office on Wednesday to call for reforms of how royal assets are managed. Their main gripe was a law that transferred the Crown Property Bureau’s wealth to direct control under His Majesty the King.

The law was passed by the junta’s rubber-stamp National Legislative Assembly in 2018, ending whatever civilian oversight might have had on the Crown Property.