Chiang Mai art student carves ‘112’ into chest to protest royal insult charges

Art student Witthaya Klungnin carves ‘112’ into his chest at around noon today in front of Chiang Mai’s Phuping Rajanivej Police Station. Photos: Community of Mor Chor / Facebook
Art student Witthaya Klungnin carves ‘112’ into his chest at around noon today in front of Chiang Mai’s Phuping Rajanivej Police Station. Photos: Community of Mor Chor / Facebook

A Chiang Mai student was detained today after carving “112” into his chest to protest royal defamation charges brought against him over an art project earlier this year.

For his performance art protest, Chiang Mai University fine arts student Witthaya Klungnin sat inside a circle of crumpled newspapers, pulled up his shirt and cut the the Penal Code section number over his left breast. The law, which punishes perceived disrespect of the monarchy with long jail terms, was revived last year to quash protests demanding royal reforms by jailing their leaders.

Two months ago, Witthaya and fellow student Yutsunthon Rattapradit were charged under the law, also known as lese majeste, as well as a flag desecration statute for incorporating its colors into a public installation on the university’s campus. 

Col. Ronnachai Rodloi of Phuping Rajanivej Police said the complaints against them were filed by activist attorney Srisuwan Janya, an inveterate filer of complaints formerly concerned with government transparency.

The police later released the two students but said they would be summoned for questioning on May 31.

University fine arts professor Thasnai Sethaseree said that he hopes the police will exercise good judgement in pursuing the case for the implications it will have for free of expression. He also criticized Srisuwan for his misguided targeting of artists who have no ill will toward the nation.

Witthaya Klungnin. Photo: Community of Mor Chor / Facebook
Witthaya Klungnin. Photo: Community of Mor Chor / Facebook
The Thai flag was part of a March installation in front of Chiang Mai University where people wrote messages asking that the lese majeste law be repealed and expressing anger toward the military-backed government led by Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha. Photo: Community of Mor Chor / Facebook
The Thai flag was part of a March installation in front of Chiang Mai University where people wrote messages asking that the lese majeste law be repealed and expressing anger toward the military-backed government led by Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha. Photo: Community of Mor Chor / Facebook

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