Activists Issue Call for ‘Major Protest’ After 4 Leaders Jailed

Parit “Penguin Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, and Patiwat “Bank” Saraiyam flash the three-finger salute on Feb. 9, 2021.

BANGKOK — Pro-democracy activist groups urged their supporters to take to the street on Wednesday in solidarity with four protest leaders who were put in jail on royal insult charges.

The protest will be held at Pathumwan Intersection on Wednesday afternoon. Activists initially set the starting time at 5pm but later moved it up to 4pm.

“All the people, we urge you to come out and unite, show that we will no longer tolerate this, for the sake of the future of a better Thailand,” a Facebook page run by the protest organizers said.

The rally was called in response to the jailings of activist leaders Arnon Nampa, Parit “Penguin Chiwarak, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, and Patiwat “Bank” Saraiyam. The four were charged with insulting the monarchy, or lese majeste, for the protest they staged on Sept. 19. The court denied them bail, saying that the activists may “repeat the offense” if they were allowed to walk free.

At least 58 people have been charged with lese majeste since November, according to civil rights group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. The offense is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, per count.

A small rally also took place at Pathumwan Intersection on Wednesday night, where a crowd of protesters said they were furious at the increasingly harsh enforcement of the lese majeste law.

“I’m angry,” said Jatuporn Sae-ung, who was also charged with lese majeste. “If you can’t accept what the people are saying, then you should fix yourself rather than putting people into jail.”

Another demonstrator said, “I’m surprised to see many people turning up today even though it’s an impromptu call for protest. It’s our tactic. People use social media to keep up with the movement, so they can be here immediately.”

It remains to be seen whether today’s rally will mark the return of the street protests that rocked Bangkok throughout the latter half of 2020. The protests were paused in late December amid the resurgence of the coronavirus outbreak.

The opposition’s Move Forward Party on Thursday also submitted a motion to reform the country’s libel laws including lese majeste. The ruling party Phalang Pracharath has said it will oppose any move to amend the royal insult offense.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said the protest would take place on Thursday afternoon. In fact, it will take place on Wednesday afternoon.