Five political activists, including a 17-year-old boy, were arrested and allegedly beaten on Tuesday night for allegedly conducting protests near a crowd of royalists celebrating the royal procession of King Vajiralongkorn and other palace members at Wongwian Yai.
The group of activists raised the three-finger salute not far from the royal motorcade before violence broke out.
A mass of royalists approached the group of young activists and began beating them, grabbing their faces, ripping their banners from their hands.
Several police officers then removed the protesters from the area where the royal procession was taking place.
Nutthanit, one of the protesters who only gave her first name for security reasons, told Thai Enquirer that the police were quick to use violence despite the fact that they were protesting peacefully.
She said that she only wanted to express her opinions about section 112, an action she believes is her right in a modern democracy.
“We only want everyone to be treated equally under the same law.”
A contentious law
Under Section 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code, defamation, insults, and threats to members of the monarchy, is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Thailand has seen a huge surge in 112 cases in response to the anti-government movement that continues in the country. The authorities have charged over 150 people, including 13 minors, with section 112 over the past 18 months.
The Thai government recently defended the law at the United Nations rights review in November. Thai representatives argued the draconian law protects the palace and national security.
Arrest of minors
Ekthip Faungfung, a Junior Advocacy of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, told Thai Enquirer that the police’s arrest of a minor and other activists should not involve violence.
“The arrest should comply with non-violence,” she said. “Especially when it’s a minor, the police should de-escalate the situation and attempt to diffuse a stressful clash through peaceful means.”
Ekathip added that the young protester was taken to hospital to treat his injuries. The police also plan to continue the legal process further in a juvenile court.
Another video that circulated on Tuesday night appears to show a woman sprinting towards the royal procession to reach the king himself.
Krissana Pattanacharoen, the Royal Thai Police Spokesman told Thai Enquirer that police actions were justified. He said that the police charged the protesters with causing a public nuisance and violating public decency.
The charges carry the maximum penalty of up to 1,000 baht in fines, he said.
“When it comes to law enforcement, the police will look at the facts of the case and we apply the facts of the case to the existing law. We have to strictly apply the facts to each offense first,” he said.
“As far as the criminal charge is concerned, we have to interpret the law first. We will not extend the facts of the case, we must be true and straightforward.”
But the young activists still feel shaken by the incident. They hope this kind of violent treatment doesn’t continue to happen to anyone else who demonstrates peacefully.
“Everyone is entitled to the right of freedom of expression and to stand for their opinions regardless,” Ekthip said.