BANGKOK — A civil rights lawyer group said Thursday the number of dissidents facing the draconian charges of defaming His Majesty the King rose to 42, including, most recently, a 17-year-old student.
The student identified himself simply as Thanakorn, who’s currently enrolled at a pre-college program with Ramkhamhaeng University. He’s believed to be the second underage individual to be charged under the offense, also known as lese majeste, since the crackdown began in November.
Speaking in an interview, Thanakorn said he will meet with the police to hear the charge on Monday at Buppharam Police station in Bangkok.
“It’s stressful for me, but I must fight on,” Thanakorn said. “If we dare to come out, then we must deal with whatever they will throw at us.”
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The police notice that informed him of the charge did not mention why he was slapped with lese majeste, though Thanakorn suspected it might have been what he said at a protest calling for monarchy reforms on Dec. 6.
Thanakorn is the second minor charged with lese majeste, along with up to 42 people so far, Khumklao Songsomboon, an attorney at the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, said Thursday.
“It’s not clear what he has said,” Khumklao, who represents Thanokorn, said by phone. “He is still trying to locate a video of himself speaking [at the protest site].”
In the phone interview, Thanakorn said his working-class family, particularly his father – a motorcycle taxi rider – was “really worried about me.”
Thanakorn said he used to work as a cashier to help fund his own tuition, but he has since stopped because he had to spend more time with the student-led protests that first began in February 2020.
“I don’t know whether I broke the law or not,” he said. “But the situation is that the lese majeste law has been used as an instrument to suppress those that came out to protest … The lese majeste law has become a tool to suppress differing opinions.”
Lese majeste bans libelous remarks or threats made against the King, Queen, Regent and the Heir Apparent, though in practice the law is routinely used to punish any frank discussion about the monarchy.
Violators face up to 15 years in prison, per count.