Motorcade honkers denied bail, held in custody
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Motorcade honkers denied bail, held in custody

Man charged in connection with Wat Phra Kaew defacement incident freed on bail

Student activist Tantawan Tuatulanon, facing a charge of sedition and related offences over the royal motorcade incident, is taken to the Criminal Court on Wednesday. (Photo supplied/Wassayos Ngamkham)
Student activist Tantawan Tuatulanon, facing a charge of sedition and related offences over the royal motorcade incident, is taken to the Criminal Court on Wednesday. (Photo supplied/Wassayos Ngamkham)

The Criminal Court on Wednesday approved a police request to detain two activists accused of attempting to interrupt a royal motorcade for a further 12 days, and denied them release on bail.

A third activist held for allegedly spray-painting anti-royalist graffiti on a Bangkok temple wall last year was released on bail.

Chalong Krung police took 22-year-old Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon to the court at 7.25am.

Natthanon “Frank” Chaimahabud, 23, part of the Thalu Wang (break through to the palace) protest group, was taken to the court from the Din Daeng police station.

Both face charges arising from the royal motorcade “honking” incident on Feb 4, including inciting unrest or sedition in violation of the Criminal Code. They allegedly attempted to interrupt a royal motorcade travelling on a Bangkok expressway.

According to Din Daeng police, the two had ignored summonses to report to acknowledge the charges, and they were detained separately on Tuesday. Police rejected their request for a deferment so they could attend classes.

On Feb 4 Mr Natthanon was driving a vehicle on the expressway and Ms Tantawan was his passenger. The car was stopped to allow a motorcade of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to pass safely and unhindered.

Mr Natthanon honked his horn repeatedly and tried to pass a police car and Ms Tantawan argued with an officer after they were stopped.

The court approved the police request to detain them for a further 12 days, until Feb 25, while they continued their inquiries. It subsequently refused them bail and they were remanded to prison.

Legal counsel Krisadang Nutcharus, of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), said he had sought bail for his clients on grounds they had permanent residences and were not a flight risk.

Police opposed bail, declaring the two students might well flee, attempt to interfere with evidence and cause further incidents if let free.

Ms Tantawan is still facing trial on two charges of lese-majeste in connection with opinion polls she took about royal motorcades in 2022.

The court agreed with the police, and also noted the seriousness of the offences with which the pair are charged. Sedition, under Section 116 of the Criminal Code, carries a sentence of seven years.

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)

Nophasin “Sai Nam” Trirayapiwat makes a three-finger salute as he is taken to court for his hearing on Wednesday in connection with a spray-painting incident on a Bangkok temple wall last year. He was granted bail. (Photo supplied/Wassayos Ngamkham)

The third activist who appeared in court on Wednesday was being held at the Thung Song Hong police station for allegedly spray-painting an anarchist symbol alongside the number 112 (representing the lese-majeste law) on the wall outside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or Wat Phra Kaew, in March last year.

Friends of Nophasin “Sai Nam” Trirayapiwat arrived to visit him around 10.30am, bringing food and drinking water, before police from the Phra Ratchawang station took him to court. As he left, Noppasin told reporters that he wanted to see reforms made to the justice system, to make it fairer.

Mr Nophasin, 19, questioned why police arrested him only on Tuesday, almost one year after the spray-painting incident, when he had been within the jurisdiction of Phra Ratchawang police, where the incident occurred, many times since then. He denied all charges.

The court approved his release on a surety of 35,000 baht, on condition that he not take part in activities that cause unrest.

In a related development, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said it received a telephone call from an unidentified man who asked which lawyer was handling the bail requests for Ms Tantawan and Mr Natthanon. He said he was armed and that he and his associates were ready to come to the lawyers’ offices.

Media freedom debate

New arrests in connection with the Wat Phra Kaew incident have also led to considerable comment. Two journalists arrested on Tuesday are accused of abetting the man who defaced the temple wall. They said they were just doing their jobs and reporting the news.

The two journalists have been released on bail but the arrests have led to expressions of concern about press freedom.

On Wednesday, the online news outlet Spacebar issued a statement saying it had suspended freelance photographer Nattaphon Phanphongsanon for five days in connection with the incident. It said it had never assigned him to cover the activity he is now accused of supporting.

“Using Wat Phra Kaew as a space for political expression … is behaviour that hurts the feelings of Thai people,” the company said.

“We do not support any political ideology that creates division in society and claims the right to freedom of the press to protect and conceal actions that have a hidden political agenda⁣,” it added.⁣

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