Thaluwang activists challenge police as they await arrest at Criminal Court stairs
Two young activists at the centre of a new round of conflicts between monarchy reformists and royalists staked out at the stairs of the Criminal Court on Tuesday, challenging police to arrest them.
Arrest warrants have been issued for the two members of the Thaluwang group in relation to an incident involving a royal motorcade early this month.
Tantawan Tuatulanon, 22, better known as Tawan Thaluwang, and her colleague, Natthanon Chaiyamahabut, sat on the stairs of the Criminal Court on Tuesday afternoon and told reporters that they would wait for the police to arrest them, now that the police were at court seeking their arrest warrants.
On February 4, a car driven by Natthanon with Tantawan as the front-seat passenger was stopped by police after honking ceaselessly and then trying to join the motorcade of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
The two activists were summoned to meet investigators on Monday, but they sent their lawyer to postpone the meeting to February 20 because they have classes, prompting police to announce they would seek arrest warrants.
Joining the duo at the stairs was another Thaluwang member, Napasin Triyaphiwat, who is also wanted by the Phra Ratchawang Police Station for allegedly vandalising a historical site last year.
Tantawan said she and her friends had come to the court to show their support to a Prachatai reporter and a freelance photographer, who were arrested on Monday and brought to court on Tuesday to seek their temporary detention pending investigation.
Nuttaphol Meksobhon, a reporter for Prachatai, and Natthaphon Phanphongsanon, a freelance photographer, were accused of supporting the vandalism of an exterior wall of the Emerald Buddha Temple on March 28 last year. Napasin was also charged with being part of the vandalism act.
The temple’s wall had been spray painted with an anarchist symbol and a crossed out 112 in a symbolic reference to the draconian Article 112 or lese majeste law.
Tantawan added that she had heard that police investigators were seeking arrest warrants for her and Natthanon, so they decided to wait there.
Standing in challenge
While sitting on the stairs, Napasin shouted: “If you want to arrest me, come here and do it. I won’t run away and I’m right here at the court.”
Many young supporters of the activists also showed up to express their support with hugs.
Napasin said he had learned that an arrest warrant had been issued for him, so he too had come to wait for it at court.
He said that he was not worried about the case at all and that he had learned from his lawyer that police had gone to his house with a search warrant.
Tantawan said she had just heard that police were seeking to arrest her and her friend for the February 4 incident, so she and her friend would not try to escape.
“You can come to the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road to arrest us. We’ll wait here,” she said.
Tantawan said she had not responded to police summons earlier because she was only being summoned to face a trivial charge of causing public annoyance. She said this charge is so minor that it can be annulled after paying a fine.
“But today, I’m not sure which charges will be raised to frame me?” Tantawan said.
A police source said Tantawan and Natthanon stand to face three charges: insulting police officers on duty; causing public annoyance; and instigating unrest.
Meanwhile, Tantawan said she has only just learned that three police stations are urging the Criminal Court to revoke her bail.
The young activist was arrested over lese majeste charges in 2022 and released on bail in the same year following a hunger strike.
“I’m not prepared for the revocation of bail. I don’t yet know how to fight it but I will definitely fight,” Tantawan said.
She also denied that the February 4 incident had been influenced by someone or a political party.
She said she and her friends have been campaigning against preferential treatment for royal motorcades, saying that all Thais should be treated equally.
When asked if she felt that right-wing groups were being instigated to rise up against Thaluwang (piercing through the palace), Tantawan said she was not worried but hoped the country would not get hit by another coup.
Over the weekend, Thaluwang members brawled with a group of royalists at Siam BTS station. Tantawan was there to gather opinions on the necessity for royal motorcades.