Two Thai protesters arrested for ‘violence against queen’

Bangkok, Oct 16 (AFP/APP):Thai police arrested two activists Friday under a rarely-used law banning violence against the queen, after thousands of pro-democracy protesters defied an emergency decree to rally on the streets of Bangkok.

The kingdom’s political elite has been jolted by a youth-led movement demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha and issuing a once-taboo call for reforms of Thailand’s powerful monarchy. Ekachai Hongkangwan and Bunkueanun Paothong were among activists who crowded around a royal motorcade carrying Queen Suthida on Wednesday during a large demonstration near the capital’s government house.

Bunkueanun said during a Friday morning Facebook broadcast that he was surrendering himself to police. “I am accused of trying to harm the queen,” he said. “I am innocent. That was not my intention.”

Ekachai told AFP by phone he had also been charged and police later confirmed he was in their custody.

Both men could face life prison under a law that has not been used for decades and punishes any “act of violence against the queen or her liberty”. It is the first time such a serious charge has been levelled against pro-democracy activists, many of whom have already been hit with lesser charges including sedition and breaking coronavirus rules on gatherings.

Their movement’s demands include the abolition of a strict royal defamation law — which shields the monarchy from criticism — and for the royal family to stay out of politics.

Many have vowed to return to the streets on Friday evening, a day after 10,000 people rallied late into the night in central Bangkok.

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