Lèse-majesté indictment order against ‘Arnon’ for his speech at Harry Potter-themed protest, before Criminal Court’s bail denial

On 14 July 2021, the prosecutor at the Attorney-General’s Office (The Attorney-General’s Office, Department of Criminal Litigation 7) issued an indictment decision against Arnon Nampa, a pro-democracy prominent activist, accused of lèse-majesté (royal defamation) and sedition-like offence under Section 112 and 116 of the Criminal Code, respectively, and multiple offences under the Computer Crime Act, the Communicable Diseases Act, the Emergency Decree, and the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act. The series of allegations against Arnon stem from his alleged speech made during the peaceful Harry Potter-themed protest “Cast a spell to protect democracy” in front of McDonald’s at the Democracy Monument on 13 August 2020. The indictment order was issued without the defendant being brought to hear the order.

The accuser is Police Colonel Sutthisak Piriyapinyo, Deputy Superintendent Investigation at Chanasongkram police station. The allegations sheet details that, on 3 August 2020, the Mahanakorn for Democracy Group and the Kased Movement jointly held a protest called “Cast a spell to protect democracy”, with different activists taking the stage and giving speeches. Protest leaders and participants dressed up as witches and wizards from Happy Potter franchise, dressed straw puppets as the series’ villain Voldemort, and gave out magic wands. Activist Arnon Nampa was allegedly the last speaker to take the stage. His speech reportedly discussed problems concerning the current status of the Thai monarchy, as well as launching a request for monarchy reform.

On 19 August 2020, the police arrested Arnon Nampa in front of the Criminal Court and pressed charges against him after the court working hours. Arnon had been detained at the Bangkok Demand Prison until around 24 February 2021, during the time he was informed of lèse-majesté charges in two other cases.

In the indictment sheet signed by Pittaya Weerapong, the prosecutor, Arnon was alleged to have posted three illegal messages on his personal Facebook account “Arnon Nampa (in Thai)” from 1 to 3 August 2020. The messages, listed below, reportedly were in an encouraging manner for the public to participate in the “Cast a spell to protect democracy” event at the Democracy Monument on 3 August 2020.

1. “[I was] invited by the organizers to give a speech on the monarchy reform from a legal perspective. This might be the first time I publicly speak about the monarchy on a protest stage. [I plan to] discuss concerns [about the monarchy] and solutions [to these concerns]. There is no need to be coy or afraid that the royalist group would launch an attack against [my speech]. This will be a straightforward debate.” The post allegedly contains a poster of the ‘Cast a spell to protect democracy’ event.

2. “[I] have this strange hunch that there will be a lot of people at tomorrow evening protest at the Democracy Monument”

3. “There is no need to be concerned about national security for the topic of my speech. I plan to spend only 15 minutes, not long, not ponderous, to discuss the role of the [Thai] monarchy, including relevant legislations. I confirm that what I plan to say is in good faith, for the sake of the society. And I will be speaking on behalf of everyone who has questions about the monarchy, both active on social media platforms and those who are holding up signs at protests. I can assure you I will be straightforward and stay in the legal framework under the constitutional monarchy regime. Those who are interested to hear the speech, see you at the Democracy Monument at 6 pm.”

Further, the prosecutor alleged that Arnon published three posts on his Facebook account on 3 August 2020.

1. “My opinion is debates on the concerns about the [Thai] monarchy should be straightforward and public. Exchange of views is important and should be carried out without fear of harassment. I sincerely believe that candid discussions about it are better than condemnation.”

2. “To give a succinct debate, I recommend protest participants read an article in the Same Sky Journal, the Late King’s Remembrance Edition, before joining the debate. This is because my speech today might not refer to much background information. I would rather hope to discuss current concerns which many of you are unaware of. During the administration of Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, a lawsuit was lodged against the King and the Queen for the transfer of assets allotted from the Royal procurement to the King’s private property. Later the court found the monarchy guilty and seized its assets including the Sukhothai Palace.”

3. “Post ‘today’s three demands’ with photo of the Mahanakorn for Democracy Group and the Kased Movement’s joint press conference dated 3 August 2020.”

The prosecutor alleged that all of these posts “contain the intent to allude to the Thai monarchy – the act was made available to the public by other means which is not an act within the purpose of the Constitution or for expressing an honest opinion or criticism, but was a misrepresentation of facts to raise unrest or instigate the public to the point of public disorder in the Kingdom.

“…caused the people and the general public alarm, misunderstanding and being persuaded to oppose the monarchy, the main institution and [one of the (alleged) three] pillars that unite Thai people throughout the Kingdom, which may lead to hatred or social division amounting to an offence in relation to national security of the Kingdom and a violation to the law.

The indictment order further stated that, on 3 August 2021, the defendant “dared” defame, insult or threaten the King and carried out an act by means of words, writings or any other means – by using the electronic sound amplifier to give a speech to approximately 100 protest participants.

“We must admit the truth that students and people are joining protests and making requests these days is partly due to many questions about our monarchy. On the protest stage, [we] held a sign referencing a certain person in Germany. [We] mentioned a certain person – a pilot – who flew back and forth. These references cannot mean anyone else, if not our [King].

“People, we are currently facing serious, vital concerns. There is a process to increasingly separate our monarchy from the democratic regime.

“The establishment of agencies under His purview and administration, the claim that the administration of these agencies is subject to His royal command or – in layman’s terms – as He pleases, these are the law-making which is inconsistent with the democratic regime.

“…After the [Constitutional] Referendum, there were interferences to the promulgation of the Constitution by the monarchy for the first time. Once the [draft Constitution] passed the vote, [Prime Minister General] Prayuth Chan-o-cha presented the Constitution to the King and received orders from [the King] to make several key amendments to the draft. In a country ruled by constitutional monarchy regime, there will be no such incident. This is officially an intervention of the Constitution promulgation.

“The amendment [to the Constitution], excusing the King from appointing a regent whenever he is not present in the country, led to us seeing our King often going to stay in Germany and Switzerland. He rarely returned to Thailand. People, we all know this fact. Soldiers and police all know this fact.

“From now on, state assets which we jointly own – Sanam Luanch (Royal Plaza), the Palace, the Crown’s stocks – all of which formerly jointly belong to everyone in this country, here on out will fall under the King’s administration and discretion. This is an important issue that no one dares to talk about. Further, subjecting the King’s property under His sole administration presented a violation of law.

“Another matter [to discuss] is our King’s stay in Germany. The law of Bavaria State of Germany might demand a tax of tens of thousands [of Thai Baht] (thousands to tens of thousands of USD). These tens of thousands [of Thai Baht], who does the money belong to? To us.

“What happens when the King doesn’t stay in the country? These days, we’ve seen foreigners making fun of our King. In Germany, [some people] shined lasers on walls, or used airsoft guns, to cause ‘daring’ acts because the King wasn’t in Thailand. In cases of the appointment of ministers, taking their oath of allegiance, we simply cannot carry that out. We had to wait for the King’s return. Everyone knows of this problem. Every police officer knows. No one dares say a thing. People joining the protest on 18 [September 2020] and holding signs about this all knew. But no one talks about it. The Armed Forces Transfer Act – subjecting the 1st Infantry Regiment and the 11th Infantry Regiment under the King’s command and discretion – this is important. In a country ruled by democracy, there is no place for the King to rule over a large number of armed forces personnel. No country. To do that is risky. Risky of transforming the constitutional monarchy regime to an absolute monarchy one.

“The transfer of several battalions (1,000 personnel per battalion) to the monarchy’s administration risks the change in regime.

“I’m saying all of these so that the monarchy exists in Thai society with legitimacy and under democratic rule of constitutional monarchy. After New Year, the students who have come out to protest, holding signs with controversial messages, referred to this certain person that I’ve discussed.

“That the monarchy and the Royal Household Bureau remain silent – despite full acknowledgement of a certain person making a false claim and damaging the general public – left us little choice but to question the monarchy’s perception of us the people. It’s inevitable. If someone invites me to give misrepresented information in a speech, to not mention the problems surrounding the monarchy, I will not step on the stage.

“Prayuth Chan-o-cha also played a key role in ruling this country with undemocratic values by citing the monarchy as an excuse. An example of this is the passing of the State Budget Act which not only portions the state budget to the monarchy but also requires no oversight of the spending. (Applause). This is an important matter. Any expense of our state budget must be available for audits, and public scrutiny and criticisms. But there is no such thing with this government. It allocates a budget to unnecessary sections: The Ministry of Finance’s budget for the promotion of the Sirivannavari clothing brand – using the state budget to promote [Princess Siriwanwari]’s personal brand.

“The budget support for air travel [of the monarchy] constitutes more than 5,000 million Baht (approx. USD 150 million) per the State Budget Act. If we identify the problem of the King’s absence in Thailand, the democratic regime allows the Parliament to hold a debate and present a recommendation for the King’s return. Apart from this, the Department of Local Administration’s tens of millions of Thai Baht (millions of USD) worth of budget for the royal celebration arches proves unnecessary. To have faith in the monarchy does not depend on these arches, but on the behaviors of each and everyone of the royal family. Is that right?

“I have a solution. From now on – if there are amendments to the Constitution or an election is held – the Parliament must consist of elected representatives and make amendments to the Constitution sections on the monarchy requiring the King to stay in Thailand. So that the King can be the subject of reverence for the people in this country, not in Germany.

“The next step is to amend legislations which transfer the state assets, our assets, to the monarchy, including through the Government Administration Act. These assets must be returned to us the people. There must be amendments to the Crown Property Act, taking back state assets – Sanam Laung (Royal Plaza), Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), to the people’s domain. (Applause).

“We all must raise our voices in the next election to support parties that campaign on constitutional amendments. So that the monarchy is truly under the constitution. People, let’s elect parties whose policy returns state assets to us.”

Previously, Arnon gave an explanation to some terms cited in the allegation sheet during the police investigation.

The prosecutor concluded that Arnon’s speech “was of the intent to make false statements about the Thai monarchy, and was encroachment, harassment, insult, defamation, libel or threat to the King in a manner likely to cause damage to the honour, reputation and reverence of King Rama X, the reigning king of Thailand, and cause the general public to lose faith and respect for the King who holds a status which cannot be violated.

and it is done to appear to the people verbally which is not an act for the purposes of the Constitution or not to express an opinion or criticize in good faith but a misrepresentation of facts. and inciting people and the general public was shocked misunderstand and was drawn to oppose the monarchy which is the main institution And is the center of the mind of the people of Thailand throughout the country until it may lead to hatred. or divisions in society to the point of committing an offense against the law to cause changes in the law of the land to cause turmoil or rebellion among the people causing public unrest in Thailand for people to violate the law of the land

“It was further an act to make available to the public by means of speech which is not an act within the purpose of the Constitution or for expressing an honest opinion or criticism, but was a misrepresentation of facts and an instigation to cause the people and the general public alarm, misunderstanding and being persuaded to oppose the monarchy, the main institution and [one of the (alleged) three] pillars that unite Thai people throughout the Kingdom, which may lead to hatred or social division amounting to an offence in relation to national security of the Kingdom and a violation to the law, in order to bring about a change in the Laws of the Country; to raise unrest and disaffection amongst the people in a manner likely to cause disturbance in the country; or to cause the people to transgress the laws of the Country.”

Arnon is facing six charges as follows:

1. Defamation, insult or threat to the King, the Queen, the Heir-Apparent or the Regent, or known as lèse-majesté, under Section 112 of the Criminal Code
2. Sedition-like offence on the instigation to violate the Constitution under Section 116 of the Criminal Code
3. Importing to the computer system data related to an offence against national security under Section 14(3) of the Computer Crime Act.
4. Failure to notify protesters to follow duties detailed in Section 16 of the Public Assembly Act
5. Assembly of people in a crowded area with no physical distancing in violation of the notifications under the Emergency Decree.
6. Use of sound amplifier in public without permit, under the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act.

The prosecutor opposed to Arnon’s request for provisional release, citing that “the defendant has committed offences in relation to national security several times. If he is released, he might commit more crimes.”

Arnon’s speech at the anniversary of the Harry Potter-themed protest in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center on 3 August 2021 prompted another arrest warrant dated 9 September 2021, during which time he was being held at the Bangkok Special Treatment Center medical facility under the Southern Bangkok Court’s power. During that time, on 7 September 2021, the Ratchada Criminal Court conducted an arraignment in the 3 August 2020 ‘Cast a spell to protect democracy’ protest case against Arnon through video conference setup.

As the indictment was carried out without the defendant present, Arnon’s lawyers therefore submitted another bail request with a surety of 90,000 Baht (approx. USD 3,000) on the same day.

Around 5.30 pm on 7 September 2021, Chanathip Muenprawong, Deputy Director-General of the Criminal Court, denied the bail request citing that “considering the serious circumstances of the case, if released temporarily, there are reasons to believe that the defendant would carry out more acts as detailed in the indictment or cause more harm or escape. [The court] therefore refuses to grant a provisional release. Request denied.”