Thailand Detains More Pro-Democracy Activists for Royal Insult

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A Thai court denied bail to three pro-democracy leaders accused of breaking the country’s lese majeste law as authorities widened a crackdown on a youth-led movement calling for monarchy reform.

Student leader Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and two others were sent to detention on Monday, awaiting trials on royal defamation charges, according to human rights group iLaw. The court’s order came after weeks of street protests and multiple dismissals of bail requests from four other protest leaders, who have been in pre-trial detention since Feb. 9.

The detention of more protest leaders is likely to dent a movement that’s broken long-held taboos about publicly discussing and questioning the country’s monarchy, which sits at the apex of power in Thailand. The pro-democracy activists want more transparency from the monarchy and an end to the use of lese majeste law, which mandates as many as 15 years in prison for each instance of defaming, insulting or threatening the king, queen, heir apparent or regent.

While Prayuth Chan-Ocha, a coup leader-turned-premier, has insisted that the government is merely enforcing existing laws and isn’t targeting any groups in particular, there’s been a surge in lese majeste charges since late November following monthslong street protests, with at least 59 people now facing lawsuits, according to the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

Prayuth’s government is also facing calls for resignation from the protesters, who view the administration as an extension of an army rule that followed a 2019 election held under rules written under Prayuth’s junta. The pro-democracy groups also want amendments to the constitution to scrap the powers of military-appointed Senate to elect the prime minister.

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