Band singer arrested on arson, lèse-majesté charges after burning the Thai King’s portrait
The arrest of the famed ‘Ammy The Bottom Blues’ whose real name is Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan throws the spotlight back on the use of the controversial Article 112 legal provision which has been bringing the monarchy uncomfortably into the struggle between the government and Ratsadon movement ever since its use was resumed at the end of last year in response to a rise in violent incidents associated with the street protests whose leaders have, in turn, deliberately targeted the monarchy.
One of Thailand’s top singer/songwriters was arrested on Wednesday on aggravated charges after burning a portrait of the Thai King near Klongprem Central Prison in the Chatuchak area of Bangkok on Sunday evening. The act and the ongoing prosecution of dozens of offenders under the draconian and controversial lèse-majesté law are raising tensions and division in the kingdom.
A highly provocative act has escalated tensions in the ongoing struggle between the student-led protest movement and authorities in Thailand after a well-known music star together with another man and woman, are believed to have burned a portrait of the Thai King outside Klongprem Central Prison near the Bangkok Remand Prison on Sunday night last February 28th.
Four key protest leader are being held on pending charges before the Criminal Court at the prison.
The incident was linked with the violent street protest on Sunday which saw protesters confront the police in a march on the 1st Infantry Regiment barracks on the Vibhavadi Rangsit Road as they called for the Prime Minister, who lives within the compound, to resign and also for the Thai monarch to relinquish some of his powers.
Monarchy is drawn into the struggle
The latest development comes as the use of Article 112 against protesters has drawn the monarchy into the standoff between the government and the Ratsadon movement which has, since August last year, insisted on bringing the revered institution into its demands for change.
Opinion polls in Thailand have consistently shown the public is uncomfortable with this approach.
Band singer burned King’s portrait to express anger
It is understood that the singer, a long-standing supporter of the current wave of protests, committed the act to vent his anger and displeasure at the continued imprisonment of the key protest leaders.
The singer, Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan is known as ‘Ammy The Bottom Blues’ because of his association with a famous but now-disbanded band, which had a string of hits with songs penned by him between 2010 and 2013.
Mr Chaiamorn was also the lead vocalist with the band.
Met by police in Ayutthaya and taken to hospital, later arrested, transferred to Police General Hospital
He was reportedly arrested formally by police at the Rajthanee Hospital in Ayutthaya on Wednesday after they had brought him there for treatment of an unrelated injury after finding him at a rented room in the province.
He was later moved to the Police General Hospital where he received treatment while in custody.
Facing serious charges and jail time including one under Article 112 for lèse-majesté and arson
It is understood the music star is facing aggravated criminal charges under Article 112 of the Criminal Court for lèse-majesté, arson and a specific offence of trespassing on a state office which carried a 5-year term.
The more serious charges could see the singer jailed for 20 years or even receive a life term given the aggravated circumstances.
The singer was recorded on CCTV footage with his two associates on Sunday burning a portrait of the monarch outside the prison and then quickly leaving the scene in a vehicle, reported to be a Toyota Fortuner.
Officers discovered the singer with injuries
The Chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, Police Lieutenant General Pakkapong Pongpetra, told the press that when officers found the singer he had injuries to his shoulder and hip which necessitated hospital treatment.
Police have also confirmed they have a watertight case against the performer including CCTV footage and forensic evidence.
On Wednesday, Mr Chaiamorn’s lawyer confirmed the court has already denied his client bail on the charges he is facing.
Facebook confession to the crime is genuine
The legal representative also confirmed that a confession made by the singer of his guilt in the affair, that appeared on his band’s website page, was genuine.
‘The burning of the royal portrait was done by me and I am solely responsible, the movement is not involved,’ the singer said.
Expressed regret that he cannot campaign any further for the release of four key protest leaders
Afterwards, the singer appeared to express some regret for his action saying that what he had done had landed him in grave legal difficulties and that consequently, he could be of no further use in campaigning against the continued incarceration of the four leaders of the Ratsadon protest movement.
The leaders were jailed by the Criminal Court on Tuesday, February 9th last when they were refused bail after they appeared on charges under Article 112 for lèse-majesté and sedition
The four key leaders are Parit ‘Penguin Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat ‘Bank’ Saraiyam.
Over 60 people now charged with lèse-majesté
On Wednesday, the activist group, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights confirmed that there are now over 60 people facing charges under Article 112 carrying with it the possibility of jailed terms of up 15 years and even consecutive jail sentences for multiple instances.
Some of these are teenagers and school students under 18 years of age.
A 63-year-old former civil servant was jailed in January for forty-three and a half years under the law for sharing a Youtube video that was highly critical of the monarchy.
About the Author
Carla Boonkong is a magazine writer who writes extensively about woman’s issues in Thailand. One of her key subjects is the story of Thailand’s growing influence in the world and the role played by Thai women in the process. She is now a staff writer with Thai Examiner.com in Bangkok. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.