Thai activists charged for violence against the queen

·2-min read

Five pro-democracy activists in Thailand were charged Wednesday with the criminal offence of attempting to harm the queen, over an encounter with a royal motorcade during a protest last year.

If convicted, the group could face a minimum of 16 years jail or life in prison under a law that has not been used for decades and punishes any "act of violence against the queen or her liberty".

And if the court finds they put the queen's life in danger, they could be sentenced to death.

They were charged over an incident during a protest in October last year when thousands marched from the Democracy Monument to the Government House in Bangkok.

A motorcade ferrying Queen Suthida and Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti passed through the protest zone, and some protesters crowded around the vehicle, raising the three-fingered salute of defiance adopted from "The Hunger Games" books and films.

Such an overt challenge of the monarchy is unprecedented in Thailand, where a draconian defamation law has been used to shield the royal family from criticism.

The court granted the five protesters bail after they were formally charged on Wednesday, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights told AFP.

They had to post between 200,000 baht to 300,000 baht ($6,400 to $9,600).

One of the accused, Bunkueanun "Francis" Paothong, 21, said he had no intention of harming the queen.

He told reporters it had been a "wretched and excruciating five months" in legal limbo.

The pro-democracy protests in Bangkok kicked off last July and called for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha's government and a rewrite of the military-scripted constitution.

But the most controversial demands have been for reforms to the monarchy, including the abolition of lese majeste, the royal defamation law.

Close to 20 pro-democracy protesters and student leaders are on remand in prison while fighting charges of lese majeste, sedition and other offences.