Thai actress aiding protests charged with insulting monarchy
BANGKOK (AP) - A well-known actress who is one of the best-known supporters of the pro-democracy protest movement in Thailand responded on Monday to a police subpoena accusing her of breaking the country's strict law against defamation of the monarchy although not known to have spoken publicly about the royal institution.
Inthira "Sai" Charoenpura, who is also a singer, has expressed both praise and criticism for providing material support and fundraising for the student-led movement. She and seven protesters presented themselves at a police station in Bangkok to bring charges that they had violated the Majesty's Law of three to 15 years in prison in order to defame the king or members of his immediate family .
The law, known as Article 112, has long been critical of its harshness and terms that allow anyone to file a complaint that it admits for partisan purposes. Her use against Inthira seemed unprecedented as she was not directly tied to comments on the monarchy. For several months she has been helping to provide food, protective gear and other equipment for the protest rallies that have attracted thousands of people.
The indictment against Inthira "sets a very worrying precedent," said Sunai Phasuk, a New York researcher with Human Rights Watch, adding that it now appears to be a criminal offense to be part of actions taken by the Thai authorities consider offensive to the monarchy. "Now the net is thrown very far, much wider than ever before," he said.
Inthira refused to sign a legal document confirming that she was charged.
“It's ridiculous that I delivered food and got this fee. Does that mean anyone can have the same situation if they are not on the side of the government? "Said Inthira." I'm not worried. I will continue to support the rallies no matter what. "
She said that as a result of supporting the rallies, about 70% of her work had been canceled.
Article 112 has not been invoked for nearly three years after King Maha Vajiralongkorn notified the government that he did not want it to be used. But it was revived last month after Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced that all laws would be used to persecute protesters who did not respect other people's rights and freedoms.
The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights legal aid group has counted at least 35 people indicted under the Law of Majesty as of November 24.
Although Inthira is not cited for any comments on the monarchy, other protest leaders have voiced criticism of the institution they are calling for reform in order to hold them accountable. They regard it as a feudal institution unsuitable for a democratic state and accuse it of exercising too much power.
The protest movement had three key demands: that Prayuth resign because they believe he was unfairly elected; that the Constitution be changed to make it more democratic; and that the monarchy will be reformed.
In recent weeks, protest leaders have focused on the monarchy, which is the most sensitive issue. Many Thais treat the monarchy with awe, viewing it as an inviolable institution that is the heart and soul of the nation.
Public criticism was unprecedented until the middle of this year, when protesters brought up the issue. There has been a sharp reaction from royalists, including the military, a dominant force in Thai politics that regards the defense of the monarchy as one of its main missions.
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