Two leaders of the Thailand protests have been taken into police custody on charges of attempting to assault Queen Suthida; and they face a possible life sentence for their attempted assault on the Queen’s motorcade. The incident that led to the arrests occurred Wednesday when thousands of protesters tried to obstruct the passage of the Queen’s motorcade in Bangkok. The youngest son of King Maha Vajiralonhkorn, Prince Dipangkorn, was also in the motorcade.
Lawyers of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) told reporters that the arrested protesters, Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothong and Ekachai Hongkangwan, will be prosecuted according to the provisions of Section 110 of the country’s Criminal Code. If found guilty, Bunkueanun and Ekachai face a penalty of 16 years imprisonment to life imprisonment for the attempted assault of the Queen, the Regent, or the heir apparent. Poonsuk Poonsulcharoen, a lawyer with TLHR said the charges against the two carry the highest sentence of life imprisonment.
Ekachai was taken into police custody while on his way to hand himself in and Bunkueanun handed himself in at the police station, according to TLHR. The lawyer’s group also declared that 51 protesters have been detained this week. Authorities stated on Thursday that the obstruction of the royal motorcade is responsible for a state of emergency decree issued around 4 am local time on Thursday.
Analysts pointed out that the protests will be an additional blow to the Thai economy which is still reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The increasing political tension will deal a heavy blow on the economy which is still trying to survive from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lavanya Venkateswaran, market economist at Mizuho Bank, declared.
The bank reduced its 2020 GDP growth prediction for Thailand from -6.3% to -7.5%. Venkateswaran stated that the protests were fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic and that the sectors affected by the pandemic are also being affected by the political unrest. The decrease in tourism which feeds the Thai economy is also affecting the economy of the South Asian country.
Protesters are demanding a reform of the monarchy, a revocation of Thai laws condemning critics of the royal family, a reduction of King Maha Vajiralonhkorn’s powers through constitutional monarchy, a disbanding of the royal guards, as well as the resignation of the Prime Minister. Protesters have declared that the demonstrations will not stop until the reforms are made for a “new Thailand.”
“These protests are unprecedented in Thailand, the protesters are defying everything,” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor at Chulalongkorn University disclosed. “Their determination and resilience in the face of the emergency decree are extraordinary. They look very determined to me; they’re not going to go away until they see a new kind of Thailand.”