The arrests come after Queen Suthida’s motorcade drove past protesters in Bangkok on Wednesday, with video showing the crowd shouting and holding up the defiant three-finger salute inspired by the Hunger Games movie franchise. Police were seen pushing back protesters as the car, which also carried King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s youngest son, Prince Dipangkorn, slowly drove past.
Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothong and Ekachai Hongkangwan are to be charged under Section 110 of Thailand’s criminal code, according to the Thai Lawyers For Human Rights.
Those found guilty of Section 110 face 16 years to a maximum life imprisonment for violence or attempted violence against the Queen, the heir-apparent or regent. If the actions are considered likely to endanger the Queen’s life, then the death penalty could be applied.
Poonsuk Poonsulcharoen, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, said the pair are believed to be facing charges that carry a maximum life sentence.
Ekachai was arrested while he was on his way to Bangkok’s Dusit police station to hand himself in, and Bunkueanun was taken into custody after he surrendered to police, the lawyers group said.
The decree, which came into effect in the Thai capital, bans gatherings of more than five people and includes a nationwide ban on publishing and broadcasting news and information — including online — that incites fear among the public.
In a mass show of defiance, thousands of protesters hit the streets of Bangkok for a second night on Thursday. Authorities warned through a loudspeaker that demonstrators were violating the decree, were being photographed and could be prosecuted and arrested. But crowds of protesters congregated at the Ratchaprasong Intersection in Bangkok’s commercial center, chanting, jeering at police, and waving lights from their cell phones.
Protests are expected to continue through the weekend.
Student-led demonstrations and marches that have been ongoing across Thailand since July have escalated in recent weeks. Protesters are calling for a new constitution, the dissolution of parliament and resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, as well as an end to intimidation of government critics.
An increasingly central demand is the reform of the country’s monarchy in order to curb King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s powers and ensure a true constitutional monarch under a democratic system.
Prime Minister Prayut responded to calls for his removal Friday saying, “I won’t quit.”
In a news conference following a special cabinet meeting, Prayut said the cabinet had approved the emergency decree and that it could stay in place for up to 30 days.
“It (the decree) will be used for only one month or even shorter if the situation returns to normalcy,” the Prime Minister said. “It doesn’t aim at harming anyone. Recently who have been hurt? Mostly are the officials. This means the situation is irregular.”
Prayut also warned young protesters not to violate the law and asked the parents to monitor their kids.
“For those students, should the parents do their best in…