Withaya Khlangnin

WithayaTwo Chiang Mai University students, Withaya Khlangnin (who later changed his name to Siwanchali “Ramil” Withayaseriwat) and Yotsunthon Ruttapradid, were summoned by police on lese majeste charges and the 1979 Flag Act for an art installation piece exhibited at an event on 14 March 2021.

Their case stems from a complaint made by serial complainer, royalist, and attention-seeker Srisuwan Janya who claims to be Secretary-General of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution. He filed a complaint against the students for an art installation they exhibited during a protest at Chiang Mai University.

Flag LM

Clipped from Prachatai

The art piece features a mannequin wrapped in plastic in the middle of two red and white strips. It was shown twice. Participants at the 14 March protest were invited to write messages. The police claim the messages violate Article 112. The police said that, since the art piece looks like a Thai flag without the blue stripe, which represents the monarchy, it means that the artist does not wish for the monarchy to exist in the country.

The students received a phone call from the police informing them of the summons. They were told that police had sent the summonses to their home addresses in Sukhothai and Narathiwat, and that they had to report to the police on 3 May, or the police would issue arrest warrants.

They reported to the police on 11 May 2021 and denied all charges.

Withaya and Yotsunthon were released after police officers took their fingerprints. They are required to report to the police again on 31 May 2021.

Before he entered the police station, Withaya staged a performance, using a razor to cut the number 112 into his chest.

C no 112 - Copy

Meanwhile, the Art and Cultural Activist Network for Democracy (ACAND), a network of artists, activists, and academics, issued a statement signed by 518 people, calling for the university to protect academic freedom and support the students.

Another lese majeste charge was read to Withaya on 5 October 2021. This charge relates to a performance in front of Chiang Mai University on 1 May 2021 to demand the release of detained activists.

At this rally, Withaya poured red paint over himself, and climbed onto a university sign that featured the near compulsory photo of King Vajiralongkorn.

Police decided that Withaya’s performance contravenes Article 112. This is because it allegedly:

involved climbing onto the university sign, above which was a portrait of the King and a sign saying “Long live the King.” Withaya also poured red paint all over himself, which the police said was unsightly, and spilled paint over the university sign and the image of the King. The police also said that the gestures Withaya used during the performance, such as standing with a paint bucket over his head, and lying down with one foot pointing up at the portrait of the king, was disrespectful.

Withaya heard the charge at Phuping Rajanivej Police Station on 5 October 2021, “dressed as Luffy from the Japanese manga One Piece, and staged a short performance before going to meet the inquiry officer.”

Clipped from Prachatai

He was released after his meeting with the inquiry officer and is required to report to the police again in 12 days, and has to submit further testimony in 20 days. Indictments followed on 18 January 2022.

On 8 May 2023, the Chiang Mai Provincial Court dismissed the second lese majeste charge against Withaya, stating that the evidence presented by the prosecution did not show the defendant’s malicious intent, adding that his performance did not identify a specific person, and that the performance was demanding the release of detained activists.

Media commentary on Withaya’s case:

Prachatai, 9 May 2023: “Court dismisses royal defamation charge against performance artist

UCA News, 21 January 2022: “Thai govt ramps up pressure on monarchy reformists

Prachatai, 9 October 2021: “Performance artist faces another royal defamation charge

Prachatai, 12 May 2021: “CMU students report to police on royal defamation charge

The Nation, 11 May 2021: “Charged Chiang Mai student cuts 112 on his chest with a razor

Prachatai, 5 May 2021: “CMU students summoned on royal defamation charge for art installation

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