Seven leaders of Thailand’s anti-government protests were summoned to face charges of insulting the monarchy a day before a planned protest to demand that the king relinquish control of the royal fortune.
The charges announced ahead of Wednesday’s protest will be the first to come under so-called lese majesty laws relating to insults to the royal family for more than two years. Anyone found guilty faces up to 15 years in prison.
Protests that began in July against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha have increasingly turned to demands to limit the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, breaking a long-standing taboo on criticism of the monarchy.
One of the seven, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, said his family had received a lèse majesté summons in addition to other charges, and that he was not afraid.
“The ceiling has been broken. Nothing can contain us anymore, ”he wrote on Twitter.
He told Reuters: “This will expose the brutality of the Thai feudal system to the world. “
Other people named include human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, who became the first to call for royal reforms on August 3, and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, a student leader who made 10 demands for reform. royal.
Neither was immediately available for comment.
The police source, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said protest leaders had until November 30 to acknowledge charges during protests on 19 and September 20.
A campaign group, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, told Reuters that police warned lawyers for the leaders of the protest.
The summons came a day before protesters announced they would march to the office that manages the royal fortune to demand that the king relinquish personal control over assets.
But instead of walking to the Crown Assets office, where police had barricades set up and planned to deploy nearly 6,000 officers, the location was changed Tuesday night.
Protesters said they would instead meet at the headquarters of Siam Commercial Bank, in which the king has a stake of more than 23%, part of the royal assets valued at tens of billions of dollars.
“Let’s get back the property that should belong to the people,” the protest group FreeYouth said.
He said the change was made to avoid confrontation, including with the royalists who also planned to visit the property office to defend the monarchy.
Police were not immediately available to comment on the change.
More than 50 people were injured last week when police used water cannons and tear gas against thousands of protesters in parliament on the most violent day in more than four months of protests.
The royal palace has not commented since the protests began, though the king said the protesters were “loved all the same” when asked to comment on the protests.
Prayuth has rejected calls to quit protesters and said last week that all laws would be used against protesters who break them – raising activists’ fears that royal insult laws are one of them.
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