Thai activists stage crop top protest against lese majeste law

Protest leaders Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul and Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak protesting against the monarchy, in Bangkok, on Dec 20, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Some of Thailand's highest profile protest leaders dressed in crop tops and paraded at a Bangkok shopping mall on Sunday (Dec 20) in a jibe against King Maha Vajiralongkorn to demand the repeal of the law against insulting the monarchy.

The crop top is a reference to pictures showing the King dressed in one which have appeared in European tabloids in recent years.

Among at least 35 activists currently facing charges under the lese majeste law is 16-year-old Napasin Trirayapiwat, who wore a crop top and had anti-monarchy slogans written on his midriff at a protest.

"If we don't fight for Naphasin today, nobody will be safe from expressing their opinions," said Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak, who is also facing royal insult charges which can mean up to 15 years in prison.

The Royal Palace made no comment and has not done so since the start of protests in July. Government spokesman Anucha Buropchaisri said lese majeste was being used in accordance with the law and not to block freedom of expression.

A small group of royalists briefly shouted at the protest leaders before being moved along by security guards.

The protest leaders were joined by a few dozen supporters as they posed outside a fashion store selling designs by one of the King's daughters. Many shoppers expressed bemusement.

The United Nations human rights office called on Thailand on Friday to amend the lese majeste law. The government responded that it was similar to libel laws.

Youth-led protests began in July to call for the removal of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former junta leader, and for the drafting of a new Constitution. They later demanded reforms to the monarchy.

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