23 May 2024

A teenager, under 18 at the time of the alleged offence, has been indicted under Thailand’s draconian royal defamation law, known as Article 112, after taking part in a protest in December, to demand reform of the country’s monarchy, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

It is the first lèse majesté indictment of a teenager since the resumption of the implementation of the Article in November last year. The decision to indict was made on April 9th, but was only found out yesterday (Monday), when the teenager reported himself to the Central Juvenile and Family Court.

The 18-year-old protester, with the first name Thanakorn and nickname Petch (surname withheld), was charged by the police in January. He was 17 years old when he joined the protest last year, where he is accused of having given a speech during which he insulted the monarchy, according to TLHR.

Petch denies the allegation, while the Court released him on a bail of 5,000 baht yesterday. The next hearing is on June 11th.

Petch expressed concerns about the prosecution, saying that injustice has been seen in past cases [against protesters] and the prosecutions of political protesters makes it more difficult to fight for democracy in Thailand.

Petch’s father told TLHR, “My son should not be prosecuted just because he expresses his opinions.”

Despite the indictment, his father expressed hope that, when the COVID-19 situation improves, more people will take part in the political movement to bring change soon.

Petch, also an LGBTQ activist, has faced five charges, including lèse majesté, sedition and violation of the Emergency Decree, since joining the demonstration calling for reform of the monarchy.

This is not, however, the first time a minor has been charged with committing an act of lèse majesté. In 2017, six teenagers, including a 14-year-old boy, were convicted of the offense for burning royal portraits in Khon Kaen province.