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1 - Royal Supremacy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 June 2023

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Summary

Colonel Pitakpol Chusri, then the chief intelligence officer of a task force in the Northeastern Thai province of Khon Kaen, deemed it his duty to file a law suit against student activist Jatupat Boonpatararaksa from Khon Kaen University. For the officer saw that the student activist had shared an unflattering BBC Thai article carrying a personal profile of the newly enthroned King Vajiralongkorn.

Jatupat, better known as Pai Dao Din, was arrested on 3 December 2016. More than 2,600 people reportedly shared the same article when it appeared online on the occasion of the new king’s accession to the throne, but Jatupat was the only one prosecuted for lèse majesté. He was sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment under Article 112 of the Penal Code, but was freed after a royal pardon in May 2019—only forty-one days short of his prescribed jail term. He was among 50,000 persons granted royal pardons on the occasion of King Vajiralongkorn’s coronation. This total included six royalist Yellow Shirt leaders who had been jailed for occupying Government House during a 2008 protest—for the sake of monarchy, they claimed.

Wearing a yellow T-shirt symbolic of loyalty to the monarchy on the day he received his freedom, Jatupat spoke outside the prison in Khon Kaen Province in which he had been held. He said that he was grateful for the king’s kindness and his pardons to prisoners. But he insisted that he would continue fighting for human rights and democracy. Both the media and young activist himself observed that he had in fact been targeted since the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta took power in May 2014, both for his protests against the junta’s authority and for his campaign for rejection of the military-sponsored draft constitution. A military prosecutor filed charges against him and seven other activists in October 2016 for organizing a public forum at Khon Kaen University to discuss the draft charter. The prosecutor deemed the act a violation of the NCPO orders.

After he was freed in 2019, Jatupat had a chance to confront in person the military officer Pitakpol when the Law, Justice and Human Rights Committee of Thailand’s House of Representatives invited the two men to give testimony on 27 November 2019.

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A Soldier King
Monarchy and Military in the Thailand of Rama X
, pp. 1 - 13
Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
Print publication year: 2022

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