Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit

On 12 October 2021, Nang Loeng police submitted its case file to the Office of the Attorney-General for a lese majeste charge against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Lawyer Krisadang Nutcharat said that the police decided to charge his client over a livestream lecture on 18 January 2021.

Thanathorn was critical of the government’s vaccine mismanagement, which is now alleged to have contained remarks deemed to offend the monarchy. This seems to be because he questioned the government’s AstraZeneca vaccine strategy, where the vaccine was being produced by Thai firm Siam Bioscience, which is owned by the monarch.

The 112 charge was initiated by Apiwat Khanthong, who is chairman of the government-appointed committee investigating the spread of “disinformation” about the prime minister and other ministers.

On the same day, Thanathorn also reported to Phahonyothin police station to acknowledge a second lese majeste charge, also in connection with his Facebook livestreaming.

Thanathorn described the charges against him and other activists as “unjust, urging the public to protect them and to condemn this injustice.”

Thanathorn’s livestream talk, titled “Royal Vaccine: Who Benefits and Who Doesn’t?” urged the regime and Siam Bioscience to publicly reveal the vaccine production agreement. At the time, Siam Bioscience, an opaque company due to its royal connection, seemed to have failed monumentally, causing the regime to import millions of AstraZeneca doses from overseas.

In the talk, Thanathorn concluded that “the government has been careless in negotiations for the vaccine…”. He pointed out that Siam Bioscience was “tasked with producing 200 million doses per year. Of this, 176 million will be sold to other countries in the region, while the remainder will be sold locally.” He added that the regime “has announced it will give Siam Bioscience Bt1.44 billion for the project.”

He claimed Siam Bioscience was only “established in 2009 with an authorized capital of Bt48 billion, but over the past 11 years, the corporation has made losses worth Bt581 billion…”.

And, he “pointed out that Siam Bioscience was only added to the plan in the second quarter of 2020 – when anti-establishment protesters began holding their rallies.” This, he said, may make the “AstraZeneca-Siam Bioscience deal … politically motivated.”

Interestingly, in February 2021, the Criminal Court dismissed a petition by the Digital Economy and Society Ministry to remove a Thanathorn clip criticising the government’s Covid-19 vaccine policy. The ministry had claimed it constituted lese majeste. After being ordered to take down his half-hour analysis, Thanathorn challenged the order.

His challenge was successful after the full clip was played in court, with the court “saying no part of the clip clearly showed he criticised or raised questions in any way that could be deemed insulting to the monarchy.” It added: “There is no clear evidence it affects national security…”.

The court asked Thanathorn why he used the term “royal vaccines”.

His reply was wonderful, pointing out that “he was not the first to use it.” He pointed out that: “It was Gen Prayut and government agencies who first used or implied it that way…”. They were milking propaganda for the king and that was turned back at them, and the court agreed: “The court viewed the term was borrowed from what the government had said earlier about the local vaccine production to show the mercy of the king. Mr Thanathorn’s use of the word was therefore not a lie, which could cause damage to the king.”

Media accounts of Thanathorn’s cases:

Bangkok Post, 7 June 2022: “54 enlisted to testify in Thanathorn case

Bangkok Post, 13 October 2021: “Thanathorn awaits vaccine row fate

Thai PBS. 12 October 2021: “Thai police charge Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit with lèse majesté

Bangkok Post, 8 February 2021: “Court throws out request to block Thanathorn’s clip

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