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Activist ‘did not know’ she was honking at princess’s motorcade

Activist ‘did not know’ she was honking at princess’s motorcade

The young activist at the centre of the latest round of clashes between monarchy reformists and royalists claimed on Monday she did not know the motorcade she sped after belonged to a Royal Family member.

Tantawan Tuatulanon, better known as “Tawan Thaluwang” after the name of her anti-monarchy group, declared she did not realise it was HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s motorcade she was tailing on February 4.

Tantawan, 20, said on Facebook that she encountered the motorcade as she was heading to Victory Monument after attending a funeral.

“We did not know there was a royal motorcade and we didn’t intend to cause trouble to it,” she said in the post.

“We didn’t disrupt the motorcade as reported. Those who watch the clip carefully will see that we didn’t disrupt the motorcade or cut across it, as reported by several TV stations. We were simply driving fast in a rush to get to Victory Monument where we had business to do.”

A video clip circulating on social media shows Tantawan in the front passenger seat of a car as it honks continuously behind the motorcade. The car was driven by an unnamed colleague from the Thaluwang group. The group’s name can be translated as “shattering the palace”.

A police escort blocked the car from overtaking the motorcade. Tantawan was then seen arguing face to face with a police officer. After the officer explained it was a royal motorcade, Tantawan demanded to know the name of the royal concerned, saying the roads belonged to the people.

On Monday, Tantawan said that after reviewing the clip, she and her colleague decided to apologise for their inappropriate behaviour and speeding.

However, she insisted she was within her rights to question police about the motorcade, adding that she and her colleague had remained polite throughout the encounter.

Tantawan is already facing a charge of lese majeste under Article 112 of the criminal code for a public poll on royal motorcades she conducted in February 2022.

She was arrested and detained a month later and last year spent 52 days on hunger strike to demand bail release for people behind bars on political charges.

On Saturday, a group led by Tantawan tried to conduct an opinion survey on the same issue at Siam BTS station but was challenged by a group called Thai People Protecting the Monarchy. Police had to intervene when the clash resulted in violence. Leaders of the royalist group vowed to shadow Thaluwang and crack down hard on the group, which it accuses of undermining the monarchy.

Tantawan’s case was also cited by the Constitutional Court in its ruling to halt moves to reform the lese majeste law by Move Forward Party and its former leader Pita Limjaroenrat. The court argued that Pita’s support for Tantawan and her anti-monarchy activities lent weight to beliefs that the party was seeking to topple the constitutional monarchy with its bill to amend Article 112.

Pita acted as bail guarantor in a bid to secure Tantawan’s temporary release from Bangkok Remand Prison when she staged her hunger strike.

Political observers believe Tantawan’s case might lend weight to the case seeking Move Forward’s dissolution. The party has declared its opposition to honking at royal motorcades but called for space to debate political conflicts peacefully in Thai society.

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