17-year-old activist faces a second royal defamation charge

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A youth monarchy reform activist received her second lese-majeste charge this week for conducting street surveys about the royal institution.

Benchamaporn “Ploy” Niwat, 17, an activist with the monarchy reform organization, Thaluwang, was summoned by Bang Sue police on Tuesday to acknowledge her latest charge.

“The officer who filed the charge and investigators are servants to the tyrant,” she wrote on her social media account on Tuesday.

Police say she violated Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or lese majeste, for conducting a street survey in Bangkok on April 18. The public poll asked pedestrians if they believe that the government allows the king to exercise political power at his own discretion. Ploy denies all charges.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Suphat Hemjinda, the investigator who filed the lese-majeste charge, said Ploy’s speech claimed that the junta-drafted constitution gives more power to the king.  Suphat said this was untrue, and considers the claim as slander and defamation. 

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), a legal group that offers legal services to activists, said the warrant for her arrest came after the Central Juvenile and Family Court denied the police’s request for a warrant for Ploy on May 28. Three other members of the student activist group, Thaluwang, were arrested on the same charge.

After the summoning, the police asked the juvenile court to detain Ploy. The court granted the request before allowing bail with a surety of 20,000 baht. Her next court date is in June.

Ploy was already facing another royal defamation charge from April 22 for sharing a social media post by Thaluwang that criticized the country’s fiscal budget for the royal institution. Before joining Thaluwang, Ploy was a member of the student activist group, Bad Student.

TLHR has documented that at least 1,795 individuals have been prosecuted for participating in political rallies and political expression between July 2020 and March 2022. At least 275 of those charged were under the age of 18, the group cites. 

Ploy is the 16th minor to be charged with lese-majeste since 2020. She shaved her head on May 3 to protest the denial of bail requests for political activists on pre-trial detention.

“We believe that what we have done, such as asking questions and fighting for democracy and freedom was not wrong,” Ploy told reporters on May 3 moments after she shaved her head in an act of protest.

“What the police are doing to us is wrong, it is injustice.” 

Photo via Benjamaporn Ploy on Facebook

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