Motorcade protest duo arrested
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Motorcade protest duo arrested

Activist Tantawan and companion face charges including sedition in connection with Feb 4 incident

Activist Tantawan Tuatulanon speaks to reporters while being taken to the Din Daeng police station following her arrest on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo: Wassayos Ngamkham)
Activist Tantawan Tuatulanon speaks to reporters while being taken to the Din Daeng police station following her arrest on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo: Wassayos Ngamkham)

Police on Tuesday arrested monarchy-reform activists Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon and Natthanon “Frank” Chaimahabud on charges of sedition and related offences for allegedly attempting to interrupt a royal motorcade on Feb 4.

The two were brought to the Din Daeng police station where they were being questioned on Tuesday evening.

Another activist, Nophasin “Sai Nam” Trirayapiwat, was also arrested on charges related to an incident in March last year, when a man spray-painted an anarchist symbol alongside the number 112 outside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or Wat Phra Kaew. He was being questioned separately at the Phra Ratchawang police station.

The Criminal Court earlier approved warrants for the Thalu Wang (break through to the palace) protest group members. Din Daeng police had sought to arrest Ms Tantawan and Mr Natthanon as they had twice failed to report and acknowledge their charges.

The two instead sent a representative from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) to submit documents requesting a postponement of their meeting with investigators until Feb 20. They cited their conflicting need to attend classes.

However, police investigators rejected the postponement request, deciding the two could have reported after attending classes, a police source said.

Ms Tantawan and her colleague spent most of Monday afternoon on the steps outside the Criminal Court, surrounded by a growing crowd of reporters and waiting for the police.

“Today we are in 2024. Let’s not go back to 1976, we must move forward,” she told the crowd at one point.

She also told reporters that there were no political figures behind her group’s activities, as national police chief Torsak Sukvimol has said.

Ms Tantawan faces a charge of inciting unrest or sedition in violation of Section 116 of the Criminal Code, and a charge under the Computer Crime Act. Sedition is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Mr Natthanon faces four charges, including violating Section 116, the Computer Crime Act, honking a car horn in violation of the Traffic Act, and insulting officers.

As a police vehicle took the pair to the police station, Ms Tantawan flashed a three-finger salute and told reporters to closely monitor the situation, including her fight and that of her friends.

A crowd of demonstrators gathered in front of the station and shouted at police manning barriers erected to beef up security. Outsiders were barred from entering.

Natthaphon Khumwongsakul, of TLHR, said Ms Tantawan and Mr Natthanon denied all charges. Ms Tantawan was later transferred from Din Daeng to the Chalong Krung Police Station in Min Buri district for further questioning. Four female officers had to lift her into a vehicle as she had resisted by lying down.

The lawyer said he expected police would take the pair to seek court approval to detain them on Wednesday.

Under the law, police can detain a suspect for up to seven 12-day periods, or 84 days in total, before a charge must be laid or the suspects released. (Story continues below)

Police are deployed to beef up security at the Din Daeng station with barriers set up to prevent outsiders from entering on Tuesday following the arrest of prominent activist Tantawan Tuatulanon. (Photo supplied/Wassayos Ngamkham)

Motorcade confrontation

Mr Natthanon was driving and Ms Tantawan was a passenger when their car was stopped for the royal motorcade of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who was travelling on an expressway in Bangkok on Feb 4. Mr Natthanon honked his horn repeatedly and tried to pass a police car, while Ms Tantawan argued with an officer after they were stopped.

Police from the Pathumwan, Nang Loeng and Samran Rat stations had earlier proposed to public prosecutors that bail for Ms Tantawan be revoked over the incident.

Ms Tantawan, 22, is facing royal insult charges under Section 112 of the Criminal Code in connection with public polls she conducted in 2022 about royal motorcades. She has been free on bail for most of that time.

On Saturday, Ms Tantawan and her Thalu Wang group went to conduct a poll at the Siam BTS station in front of Siam Paragon, asking people whether they thought royal motorcades caused inconvenience.

Royalists calling themselves Thai People Protecting the Monarchy also showed up, and a violent brawl ensued.

Some of her critics subsequently posted pictures showing themselves hanging out at night at the condominium where she lives. One posted a death threat on the social media platform X saying, “I will throw you off the Skywalk next time I see you.”

In a Facebook post on Monday, she apologised for the pair’s conduct in the Feb 4 incident, and denied having tried to harass or block the royal convoy.

Ms Tantawan staged a 52-day hunger strike early last year to demand the release of 16 people detained pending trial on charges that stemmed from the anti-government protests that began in mid-2020.

Last May, she and eight others were charged with trespassing, destroying public property and obstructing officers at Samran Rat police station.

The group was seeking the release of a 15-year old girl who was arrested on a lese-majeste charge. The girl spent 50 days in a juvenile detention centre before being released. Her case, like those against Ms Tantawan, is still before the courts.

The teenager had been arrested shortly after the Wat Phra Kaew graffiti incident.

That event continues to reverberate, with the arrests this week of two journalists who said they were simply reporting on the activity.

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