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Thai progressive leader indicted on charge of defaming king

BANGKOK (AP) – A popular leader of Thailand’s progressive political movement has vowed to continue his activities despite being indicted on charges of defaming the king and violating a law on online activity which carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison.

Co-founder of the court-disbanded Future Forward Party Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit was indicted on Monday for comments he made in January last year about the awarding of a government COVID-19 vaccine production contract to a company owned by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

His comments were part of a general criticism that the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha bungled its vaccination campaign by failing to ensure timely, adequate and effective supplies.

Thanathorn was granted release on bail of THB90,000.

Thailand’s lese majeste law, Article 112 of the Criminal Code, carries a prison term of up to 15 years for insulting the monarchy, but critics said it is often wielded as a tool to quash political dissent. The charge of breaching the computer crime act is punishable by five years.

His comments last year were made during a Facebook Live session.

“I am not the first and will not be the last silenced by Article 112 despite the fact that my criticisms are for the benefit of the public, stemming from concerns that Thai people will not receive vaccines fast enough or will receive inefficient vaccines,” Thanathorn said.

“By using the 112 charge against me and other political activists, those in power hope that it will be the ultimate weapon to silence us. I would like to confirm here that I will continue my work for the public interest.”

Founder of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. PHOTO: AFP