Thai court rules protesters sought to overthrow monarchy as kingdom upholds royal insults law at UN

The Constitutional Court, which ruled in a case brought by a royalist lawyer, said that a controversial 10-point call for institution reforms by three student protest leaders in August last year was designed to overthrow the monarchy.

“The actions have hidden intentions to overthrow the constitutional monarchy and were not a call for reform,” said a court judge.

The court ruled on the constitutionality of their call for reform and did not impose any sanction, but ordered them and their groups “to cease actions in these matters.”

The role of the monarchy is a taboo subject in Thailand, where the palace is officially above politics and is constitutionally enshrined to be celebrated in “revered worship.”

The ruling comes as Thailand defended its controversial law criminalizing criticism of his monarchy on Wednesday, following concerns expressed by United Nations member states about his rights record and the arrests of young protesters pushing for real reforms.

Thailand has one of the harshest “lese majesty” laws in the world, which provides jail terms of up to 15 years for anyone convicted of defaming, insulting or threatening King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his closest family.

During a universal periodic review by a UN Human Rights Council working group on Wednesday, some member states urged Thailand to amend its lese majesty law, which they said restricted freedom of expression.

Thai officials, however, argued that it protects the monarch and thus national security, and that cases of actual insults were handled with care.

Protesters Panupong Jadnok, Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Arnon Nampa arrive to report to the police in Bangkok on November 30, 2020.

Protest movement

Calls for royal reform by members of a youth-led anti-government protest movement They were bold and highly significant in a country that has imprisoned scores of critics of the crown and traditionally defends the king as a semi-divine.

The court case concerned a speech by Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul calling for amendments to the crown property laws, reducing the royal family’s budget allocation and seeking the abolition of the lese majesty law.

Two other protesters, human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, 37, and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, 24, also spoke at the same rally.

A group of protesters gathered near the court on Wednesday, including Panusaya, who said that overthrowing the monarchy was not his goal but that he respected the ruling.

Arnon and Panupong are currently in pre-trial detention on other charges and their lawyer, Kritsadang Nutcharat, said they also had no desire to overthrow the monarchy.

“The ruling could affect future reform requests,” Kritsadang added.

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