The Thai authorities is submitting a royal grievance of libel towards the opposition for criticizing vaccinations

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Future party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit gives a speech at the party center in Bangkok

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From Patpicha Tanakasempipat

BANGKOK (Reuters) – The Thai government on Wednesday filed a criminal complaint against banned opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for defaming the monarchy after criticizing the vaccination strategy for COVID-19.

The move could mark the Majesty's most famous case since a wave of anti-government protests broke out last year, including criticism of King Maha Vajiralongkorn over allegations of political meddling and assumption of too much power.

The Thai Penal Code Article 112 complaint against Thanathorn came two days after he commented that the government was relying too much on a Crown Property Bureau company, under the king's personal control, to manufacture vaccines for Thais.

Thailand's royal defamation law, known as lese majeste, punishes defamation or insult to the Thai king with up to 15 years in prison.

Government officials who filed the complaint told reporters that Thanathorn had defamed the monarchy in several remarks alleging it was involved in the vaccination strategy.

"Thanathorn distorted facts and caused misunderstandings among the people," Suporn Atthawong, a minister in the prime minister's office, told reporters.

"He violated the monarchy, which angered the Thais who love and protect the monarchy."

The complaint, which included cybercrime allegations of uploading false information, came after Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who first took power in a 2014 military coup, on Tuesday praised "skewed" information about vaccination strategy follow.

Thanathorn, who was banned from politics for 10 years by a court last year, could not be reached immediately for comment.

But the Progressive (NYSE 🙂 movement, which he leads, said his comments were made on the group's event, titled "Royal Vaccine: Who Profits and Who Doesn't?" Contained no insult. Broadcast on Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 Live on Monday.

"It is obvious that 112 is being used again as a political tool," Pannika Wanich, Thanathorn's colleague and one of the group's leaders, told Reuters, referring to the law.

Charles Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker, chairman of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), described the move as "yet another example of the Majesty's Law's cynical weapon to suppress criticism of any kind".

Government spokeswoman Ratchada Dhanadirek said the prosecution of illegal activities is a matter for the judicial system, not the government.

"The government doesn't have to use the law as a political tool to deal with anyone," she told Reuters. "We are focused on pressing economic problems and long-term national recovery."

The progressive The movement was founded after a court ruled last year to disband Thanathorn's Future Forward Party, which ranked third in the 2019 election, five years after Prayuth's coup.

Opposition parties accused Prayuth's junta of organizing the elections to keep him in power. Prayuth's pro-military party said the elections were free and fair.

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