11/05/2021

THAILAND DAILY

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Indictment of Royal Motorcade Case Delayed to March 31

A royal motorcade drives through a crowd of anti-government protesters in front of Government House on Oct. 14, 2020.

BANGKOK — Prosecutors on Thursday deferred their decision on whether to indict a group of five activists accused of blocking Her Majesty the Queen’s motorcade to March 31, a defense attorney said.

The indictment was initially expected today, but prosecutors delayed it because they needed more time to study the case file, defense lawyer Winyat Chatmontree said by phone. Five activists were charged with harming Her Majesty the Queen or Her Liberty under Article 110 of the Criminal Codes, which carries a lifetime prison sentence.

Winyat, who represents three of the five suspects, said he already filed a letter to the prosecutors asking them to reconsider the case, but it’s too premature to assume how they will proceed.

“It’s too soon to tell, but usually if someone asks for fairness, they have to consider the issue,” the lawyer said.

Read: 3 Senior Policemen Removed for Motorcade Bedlam

Charges were filed against the five activists following an incident on Oct. 14, when Her Majesty the Queen’s motorcade passed through a group of pro-democracy protesters in front of Government House without any warning. The authorities accused the demonstrators of attempting to block the convoy and harming Her Majesty.

In the letter submitted to the Office of the Attorney General, Winyat questioned why the authorities did not inform the demonstrators in advance about the royal motorcade.

“Did they ever investigate this incident? If not, then they should do so,” Winyat said by phone. “Usually when security details are deployed [to protect the motorcade], even a dog can’t walk through. How did the motorcade pass through the protesters? Why did they not clear the protesters from the area first?”

A royal motorcade pushes through protesters in front of Government House on Oct. 14, 2020.

Three people were charged with Article 110 in the days after the confrontation: political activist and former lese majeste convict Ekachai Hongkangwan, Mahidol University student and activist Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothong, and children welfare campaigner Suranat Paenprasert.

Two were later charged with the same offense: Panupat Paikor, 31, an office worker and Chanathip Chanintayangoon, 50, an artist.

One of the suspects, Ekachai, said to be charged with the harsh law of Article 110 is a new experience for him, even though he’s been through many legal battles as an activist.

“It’s an unprecedented case,” Ekachai said.

In this Oct. 16, 2020, file photo, activist Bunkueanun Paothong poses for a photo outside a police station in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo/Jerry Harmer, File)

Bunkueanun, the Mahidol student, said he feels optimistic that the prosecutors may drop the allegation once they’ve looked into the full picture.

“I’m kind of not surprised especially when the case is supposed to have this kind of impact and especially it has no historical precedent,” Bunkueanun said by phone. “And I think the folk there at the Office of the Attorney General might want to get the facts straight, like how the police carried out the investigation.”

He continued, “I was near the motorcade but didn’t intend to do harm. I am certainly optimistic about the whole aspect of what’s going to happen. But then again, we must expect the unexpected. We probably have to wait and see.”

Ekachai and Bunkeanun have insisted that they did not pose any threat to Her Majesty the Queen; a video of the incident shows Ekachai standing close by and flashing the three-finger salute, but did not physically touch the vehicle carrying the Queen.

Related stories:

PM Orders Prosecution of Protesters Who ‘Blocked Royal Convoy’

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