Thai police arrest student after king’s portraits defaced

Thailand has strict laws against insulting the monarchy, or ‘lese majeste’. (AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2021

Thai police arrest student after king’s portraits defaced

  • Portraits of the king are ubiquitous in city streets in Thailand, as well as most schools and businesses
  • Defacing a royal portrait was almost unheard of during the reign of the king’s father, who died in 2016

BANGKOK: A student activist has been arrested and charged under Thailand’s strict laws against insulting the monarchy after he was accused of defacing portraits of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, his lawyer and police said on Thursday.
Sirichai Nathuang, 21, a student at Bangkok’s Thammasat University, is one of at least 40 activists charged with “lese majeste” since November amid protests demanding the resignation of former junta leader Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The youth-led movement has also broken longstanding taboos by demanding reforms to the monarchy, which led to resumption of use of the lese majeste law, which had not been invoked since 2018. Breaches of the law, or section 112 of the criminal code, carry penalties of up to 15 years in prison.
Portraits of the king are ubiquitous in city streets in Thailand, as well as most schools and businesses.
Sirichai was accused of spray-painting messages on some of those portraits earlier this week and was arrested on Wednesday night, said Noraset Nanongtoom of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group.
“Sirichai denied all accusations and will fight the case,” Noraset told Reuters, adding his client was released on bail.
Defacing a royal portrait was almost unheard of during the reign of the king’s father, who died in 2016 after 70 years on the throne.
Noraset said Sirichai is accused by police of spraying messages calling for the abolition of the lese majeste law.
He said his client was the first of the protesters to be arrested under the law, while about 40 others were charged but not arrested.
Police deputy spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen said police acted in accordance with the law. “There are no double standards,” he said.
A government spokesman last week said use of the law against some of the protesters was justified.
The opposition Move Forward Party said on Thursday it would seek to amend the lese majeste law when parliament reconvenes.
“The use of Section 112 in the current situation will only worsen the relationship between the king and the people in a democratic society,” party secretary-general Chaithawat Tulathon said in a statement.


Filipinos abroad cautioned on new strain of COVID-19

Updated 37 min 39 sec ago

Filipinos abroad cautioned on new strain of COVID-19

  • Manila brings home 400,000 overseas workers affected by the pandemic

MANILA: Philippines Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III reminded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to remain vigilant against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and follow the health and safety protocols of their host countries, especially with the emergence of a new and more contagious strain.

More COVID-19 infections have been recorded among Filipinos abroad, with the highest number of cases reported in the Middle East.

“There is no room for complacency. We cannot let our guard down. Despite the availability of COVID-19 vaccines in your country of work, the virus remains an imminent threat to your health and safety,” Bello said in a statement on Monday.

Citing a report from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), Bello said the Middle East remains the region with “highest recorded cases of infection among OFWs at 7,844 as of Jan. 13.”

The region also has the highest number of OFW deaths due to COVID-19, reaching 619 according to the report.

On Sunday, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said that “Qatar reported the single biggest number of cases at 3,873, with 14 new COVID-19 infections among OFWs in the last 24 hours. Nineteen OFW casualties were recorded.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in a report on Monday, confirmed a total of 13,591 COVID-19 cases among Filipinos abroad as of Jan. 18. Of the total number, 3,968 are undergoing treatment; 8,682 have recovered, while 941 died.

Based on the DFA data, countries in Europe and the Americas have over 3,000 cases with 317 deaths, while there were 2,746 OFW infections in Asia and the Pacific, with 21 deaths.

More than 400,000 overseas Filipino workers affected by the pandemic have been brought home by the government, the DOLE reported during the weekend.

Latest figures from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) showed that 8,273 OFWs were transported to their respective provinces last week alone, up from 7,895 the previous week.

In a report to Bello, OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said total repatriates who have undergone quarantine and been cleared of COVID-19 stood at 410,211 as of Jan. 16.

“After their ordeal in their country of origin, our dear OFWs were all provided accommodation, food, transportation and cash assistance by the government. Now, they are safely home with their families,” Bello said.

It is estimated that about 60,000 to 80,000 more OFWs will be repatriated this year. Those awaiting repatriation form part of the over 520,000 OFWs displaced by the pandemic.