PM says royal safety is a priority

PM says royal safety is a priority

Road incident pair face police charges

People wave national and royal flags at a royal motorcade. (File photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
People wave national and royal flags at a royal motorcade. (File photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Monday announced that ensuring the highest level of security for the royal family is a top priority for the government as he urged police to step up efforts to prevent violent clashes in the wake of a brawl last Saturday.

He said he ordered relevant agencies, including the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), to implement stringent security measures to ensure the safety of royal motorcades. The members of the royal family have royal duties to fulfil, and it is of the utmost importance for the government to facilitate and provide protection, he said.

The prime minister's directive follows the Feb 4 incident in which student activist Tantawan Tuatulanon and a colleague from the Thalu Wang group attempted to interrupt the royal motorcade of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on an expressway in Bangkok by honking their car horn and cutting into the convoy's lane.

Later on Saturday, Ms Tantawan and her group went on to conduct an opinion poll at Siam BTS station in front of Siam Paragon, asking people whether they thought royal motorcades created trouble.

A royalist group calling itself Thai People Protecting the Monarchy also showed up, and shortly after the poll had been conducted, a violent brawl erupted.

In the wake of the clash, Mr Srettha urged all sides to avoid violent confrontations and express their differences of opinion in a more appropriate setting.

"Use of violence or hate speech should be reduced. A more proper forum should be used such as parliament or an academic seminar. I believe all sides want national unity and an atmosphere conducive to talks.

"I've asked the national police chief to prevent confrontations. But above all, the safety of the royal family is of utmost importance. I don't want to see a repeat of the Feb 10 incident," he said.

National police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol said on Monday formal charges will be pressed this week against the pair over the expressway incident.

"Please give us two more days to gather clear evidence. There will definitely be arrests," he said.

Prosecution would lead to the revocation of temporary release on bail for some suspects, he said.

He said the pair were not believed to have acted alone, and there were other people advising them in their protest activities. On Saturday, the group had refrained from action that would have otherwise caused legal problems for them.

"I cannot confirm whether any politician was involved, but I can confirm that there are advisers," Pol Gen Torsak said.

Pol Gen Torsak defended police against criticism that they were slow to take legal action against the pair, saying he has worked on protecting royalty for a long time and police are ready to protect the royal family with their lives.

"Protection of the royal institution is the first and foremost task of police," he said.

Deputy police chief Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn, who is in charge of security and traffic, said police are also considering whether Ms Tantawan's action is an offence under the lese majeste law or under Section 116 of the Criminal Code.

Pol Maj Gen Atthaporn Wongsiripreeda, commander of Metropolitan Police Division 1, said Ms Tantawan and Natchanon Pairote were summoned on Monday for questioning over the Feb 4 incident

However, the pair had sought to postpone the meeting to Feb 20, saying they had classes, he said.

On Feb 8, 2022, she also led an activity in front of Siam Paragon and then hosted a live broadcast on the topic, which resulted in Ms Tantawan being charged with royal defamation on March 5.

Ms Tantawan posted on Facebook on Sunday night that she had not disrupted or blocked the royal motorcade and the incident was the accidental result of her and her colleague driving fast as they were running late to a meeting.

Meanwhile, Move Forward Party Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn posted on his Facebook account that the government should also take legal action against the royalists involved in the Feb 10 fracas, arguing they, too, had undermined the institution.

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