Thailand could start punishing protesters under harsh lese majeste laws after PM vows to use 'all' legal tools at his disposal

Thailand could start punishing protesters under harsh lese majeste laws after PM vows to use ‘all’ legal tools at his disposal

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha threatened on Thursday to use all laws possible against protesters, as demonstrations escalate for his removal and for reforms to curb the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Activists voiced concern that this could mean the resumption of prosecutions under some of the world’s harshest royal insult laws.

“Prayuth has declared a battle against the people,” said rights lawyer and protest leader Arnon Nampa. “For civil servants who have not chosen sides, you need to decide whether to live in the past or to build a future with us.”

The protests since July have become the greatest challenge to Thailand’s establishment in years and have broken a longstanding taboo by criticising the monarchy, which can carry a ja-il term of up to 15 years.

Gen Prayuth’s announcement came a day after thousands of protesters threw paint at the headquarters of the police in what they said was a response to the use of water cannon and teargas that hurt dozens on Tuesday, the most violent day of protests since July. Some protesters also sprayed anti-monarchy graffiti.

“The situation is not improving,” Gen Prayuth said in a statement. “There is a risk of escalation to more violence. If not addressed, it could damage the country and the beloved monarchy.

“The government will intensify its actions and use all laws, all articles, to take action against protesters who broke the law.”

He did not specify whether this included Article 112 of the criminal code, which forbids insulting the monarchy. Gen Prayuth said earlier in the year that it was not being used for the moment at the request of the king.

Police have been collecting evidence since July for possible prosecutions for violating the article but had not taken further steps, one police source said.

Outraged by the anti-monarchy graffiti at Wednesday’s demonstration, some royalists called for the application of Article 112 in posts on social media.

Dozens of protesters, including many of the most prominent leaders, have been arrested on a variety of charges in recent months, though not for criticising the monarchy.

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