Local news

Govt critic faces 15-years jail

THE Criminal Court has ordered leading government critic Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit to delete allegations on social media that question the business ethics of His Majesty the King and the Prime Minister.

The government said Mr Thanathorn’s Progressive Movement claims that the Kingdom’s coronavirus vaccine policy unfairly favours a company owned by His Majesty the King.

Now the government has lodged a case against him over his video, accusing him of insulting royalty, a charge punishable by up to 15 years’ prison.

However, Mr Thanathorn’s Progressive Movement has denied that his video were illegal, and urged YouTube and Facebook to preserve freedom of expression.

The clips could still be viewed late on Sunday.

The Digital Ministry said the Criminal Court ruled that Mr Thanathorn’s posts on social media and his movement’s website could breach national security.

The videos accuse Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government of lack of transparency in allowing Siam Bioscience, which is owned by His Majesty, to supply most doses despite a lack of vaccine experience.

Critics say former junta leader Gen Prayut rigged a vote last year to retain power — a charge he denies — and have broken a national taboo by increasingly criticising the monarchy.

Siam Bioscience received a 600 million baht subsidy to develop capacity to manufacture AstraZeneca vaccines domestically and across Southeast Asia.

The court did not comment when contacted by Reuters.

Mr Thanathorn’s movement said it had not received the ruling. “We continue to stress that the content is not false or a threat to national security,” tweeted Pannika Wanich, a prominent Progressive Movement member.

“We hope YouTube and Facebook will stand by the rights and freedom of expression.”

Mr Thanathorn was banned from politics for 10 years after a court dissolved his previous Future Forward Party last year over loans deemed illegal. He denied the charges.

The government says Siam Bioscience manufacturing is on track to deliver a first batch of 61 million doses to the public by June.

There was no immediate comment from Mr Thanathorn or Siam Bioscience on the court ruling. The palace traditionally does not comment on political disputes.

Thailand on Sunday reported 829 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 18,782 cases and 77 fatalities since the outbreak started last January. – Reuters and TNR staff

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