Thanathorn acknowledges royal insult charges

Thanathorn acknowledges royal insult charges

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (left), chairman of the Progressive Movement, and Norasate Nanongtoom, his lawyer, arrive at the Nang Loeng Police Station in Bangkok to acknowledge new charges against him on Monday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (left), chairman of the Progressive Movement, and Norasate Nanongtoom, his lawyer, arrive at the Nang Loeng Police Station in Bangkok to acknowledge new charges against him on Monday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has acknowledged the first royal insult charge against him filed by a member of a vice minister’s team.

The chairman of the Progressive Movement went to Nang Loeng Police Station in Bangkok on Tuesday morning to acknowledge the charge involving his Jan 18 Facebook Live criticising the government’s vaccine procurement plan.

The charge was filed by Apiwat Kanthong, a member of the team assisting the vice-minister to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Under Section 112 of the Criminal Code or the lese majeste law, anybody can file a charge against anyone. It remains unknown whether more people have accused him of breaking the law. It mandates up to 15 years in prison for each instance of defaming, insulting or threatening the king, queen, heir apparent or regent.

In any case, Mr Thanathorn told reporters on Tuesday he was confident he had not said anything that tarnished the institution and the clip was his effort to sincerely check the government.

“If you go back to listen to what I said in the clip, you’ll find nothing that violates Section 112 [the royal defamation law under the Criminal Code]. Two months have passed and you can see what I said back then was true — overreliance on a vaccine by a single company is a risk,” he said.

Mr Thanathorn earlier faced sedition and computer crime charges involving the clip.

Shortly after the Facebook Live, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society sought a court order to block local access to the clip, claiming it violated the computer crime law.

The court dismissed the request by the ministry, which later appealed the decision.

The fresh charges on Tuesday, however, have done little to discourage him from criticising the government’s vaccine plan.

The former Future Forward Party leader said before entering the police station that he was worried about the speed of vaccination, which he claimed was too slow.

“Since Feb 28, when vaccination began, only 150,000 jabs have been administered, or 5,000 shots a day.

“We still have 1 million doses in hand. Why don’t we speed up using them?” he asked.

If the vaccination continues at this rate, it will take 200 days to use up the stock, he said. “And when we have 10 million doses available in July, will we be able to administer them?”

Thailand took delivery of 1 million doses of Sinovac's Coronavac vaccine and 117,000 AstraZeneca shots.

Doctors, however, said the vaccination went according to plans, with health workers and risk groups the priorities.

After the Disease Control takes delivery of another 800,000 Coronavac doses, the vaccine will be distributed to at least 22 provinces. They expect the number of doses to be administered over the next two weeks to increase to 300,000-400,000.

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