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Police to charge protest leaders with lese majeste

Student leaders Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattankul pose for a photo near the newly installed plaque during a mass rally to call for the ouster of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha's government and reforms in the monarchy in Bangkok on Sept 20. (Reuters photo)
Student leaders Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattankul pose for a photo near the newly installed plaque during a mass rally to call for the ouster of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s government and reforms in the monarchy in Bangkok on Sept 20. (Reuters photo)

Police have summoned seven leaders of anti-government protests to face charges of lese majeste over comments made at demonstrations that demanded reforms to the monarchy, a police source and a rights group said on Tuesday.

It will be the first time such charges have been brought under the lese majeste law relating to insults to the royal family in more than two years. They can carry up to 15 years in prison.

Protests that began in July against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha have increasingly turned to demands to curb the King’s powers.

The police source, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the protest leaders had until Nov 30 to answer the summonses, which were brought over comments made at protests on Sept 19 and 20.

One of the seven, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, told Reuters his family had received a summons on the charges and he was not worried.

“This will expose the brutality of the Thai feudal system to the world,” he said. “We will keep fighting.”

Others named included human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, who became the first to call for royal reforms on Aug 3, and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, a student leader who set out 10 demands for royal reforms.

Neither was immediately available for comment.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights told Reuters that police had notified the protest leaders’ lawyers.

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