Human Interest

Thailand declares monarchical reform requests unconstitutional

Bangkok, Nov 10 (EFE).- Thailand’s Constitutional Court declared requests to reform the country’s monarchy unconstitutional in a Wednesday ruling against three leaders of pro-democracy protests in 2020 and 2021.

Judges ruled that the protesters’ calls to reform the royal institution violates Article 49 of the constitution, which prohibits the overthrow of the “democratic regime of government with the king as head of state.”

The court’s decision follows a complaint filed by promonarchical activist Nathaporn Toprayoon against Arnon Nampa, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, leaders of the protests that, driven mainly by students, call for profound reforms in the country.

Protesters broke a taboo last year by publicly calling for monarchical reform in a country where the institution is heavily protected by authorities.

The ruling does not have direct criminal consequences, but it can influence the processes opened against at least 137 people, including the leaders of the protests and other protesters, for allegedly violating the royal defamation law.

This law, criticized for being excessively strict by the United Nations, punishes those who defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, crown prince or heir apparent with three to 15 years in prison.

Panusaya, an activist from Thammasat University, was commissioned to read in August 2020 a 10-point manifesto for the reform of the monarchy that managed to open an unprecedented public debate in the country.

After, the student, on probation after spending almost two months in prison accused of royal defamation, was included in the list of the 100 most influential women in the world that year, prepared by the BBC.

The pro-democracy protests began in 2020 to demand the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, as well as to call for the drafting of a new Constitution – since the current one was written by the defunct military junta (2014-2019) – and reduce the military’s power.

However, the boldest demand is the reform of the monarchy with the aim of minimizing its political influence and the amendment of the royal defamation law.

Some pro-democracy protest leaders such as Arnon, Panupong and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak are currently in prison after being denied bail, which Panusaya herself still enjoys.

While the late monarch King Bhumibol, who passed away in 2016, was deeply respected by most Thais, his son and current King Vajiralongkorn has not inherited his father’s charisma and has led a more controversial life, including four marriages and the choice of a royal consort. EFE


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