An incident involving a student activist honking a car horn at a royal motorcade last Sunday could derail an amnesty bid for lese majeste offenders, according to political pundits.
Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, told the Bangkok Post the incident is expected to deal a blow to an amnesty push for those accused of violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law.
The Feb 4 incident saw Tantawan Tuatulanon and a colleague from the Thalu Wang group attempt to interrupt the royal motorcade of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on an expressway in Bangkok by honking their car horn and trying to cut into the middle of it.
Ms Tantawan was arrested on March 5, 2022 on charges of violating Section 112 for running an opinion poll on Facebook on royal motorcades on Feb 8, 2022, and making a live broadcast on the topic on March 5. Some key figures of the group also face charges under Section 112.
On Feb 8, 2022, she also led an activity in front of Siam Paragon shopping mall, seeking people’s opinions on the subject, which resulted in Ms Tantawan being charged with royal defamation.
Last Saturday, Ms Tantawan and her group conducted the same poll asking people whether royal motorcades created trouble, at Siam BTS station in front of Siam Paragon Shopping Mall. Her supporters showed up and so did a royalist group calling itself Thai People Protecting the Monarchy.
Shortly after the Thalu Wang group and Ms Tantawan gathered on the skywalk to conduct the poll, a violent brawl erupted. As Ms Tantawan was explaining the details of her activity — and also apologising for the earlier expressway incident — the royalist group started shouting at her, with some pushing and shoving occurring between supporters of both sides.
“The group’s campaign against royal motorcades has received little support. It is important to ensure security for important figures,” Mr Chaiyaporn said.
“After the incident, there is a public feeling that an amnesty should not be granted to this group of activists charged with lese majeste.
“Some may also suggest Section 112 should be amended to provide further protection for other members of the royal family,” he said.
Currently, Section 112 only protects the current king, queen, heir to the throne and regent.
Mr Chaiyan also accused the Move Forward Party (MFP) of ”duplicity” for voicing disagreement to the campaign against royal motorcades after the incident.
“Meanwhile, it appears that Move Forward is not doing enough to rein in the activists because the party is facing the prospect of disbandment and may have to rely on the support of these activists,” Mr Chaiyan said.
Chaiyan: MFP not doing enough
Political activist Ruangkrai Leekitwattana previously filed a petition with the EC, asking it to dissolve the main opposition party after the Constitutional Court ruled on Jan 30 that the MFP’s efforts to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese-majeste law, indicated an intention to undermine the constitutional monarchy.
Yutthaporn Issarachai, a political science lecturer at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, also believes the incident will backfire on those seeking to amend Section 112.
Their action may also lead to further confrontations between both supporters and opponents of the Section 112 amendment bid, he said.
Jurin Laksanawisit, a list MP and former leader of the Democrat Party, said that a special House committee is studying an amnesty bill as part of efforts to foster national unity.
He also suggested that the proposed amnesty bill should not cover those who violated Section 112, committed serious criminal offences or who were found guilt of corruption.
Amnesty for lese majeste, corruption and severe criminal cases would encourage such violations of the law, he said.
”The royal motorcade incident underscores the need to exclude lese majeste offences from any amnesty bill. I want the committee to take up the matter for consideration,” Mr Jurin said.
Jurin: Panel is studying the bill
The MFP has been urged to advise demonstrators to stop offending the royal institution although party leader Chaithawat Tulathonsaid said he understood the protesters’ reasons for staging the event.
Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, deputy leader of the coalition United Thai Nation Party, said yesterday that both Mr Chaithawat and former leader Pita Limjaroenrat should tell demonstrators that the royal institution is above politics and offences against it should not be viewed as political cases deserving of amnesty, Mr Thanakorn said.
Mr Thanakorn said Mr Pita was previously a bail guarantor for Ms Tantawan.
“Mr Pita and Mr Chaithawat should warn the group to stop offending the royal institution and make it understand that it is better to express political standpoints constructively and legally,” Mr Thanakorn said.
On Saturday, MFP leader Chaithawat wrote on Facebook that he understood the intention of the Thalu Wang group and expressions of their opinions would please some but not others.
Mr Chaithawat wrote that amnesty was one of several possible solutions to solving long-standing political conflicts but he strongly disagreed with the violent reaction from the Thai People Protecting the Monarchy group in Pathumwan on Saturday.
Chaithawat: Pans royalist group