Chiang Mai art students face prison for Thai flag missing one color

Photo: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights
Photo: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights

Two students in Chiang Mai were granted pretrial release yesterday after being arrested over an art installation featuring a Thai flag without the color said to signify the monarchy. 

Chiang Mai University students Siwanchalee Wittayaseriwat and Witthaya Klungnilwere held in custody for hours on suspicion of insulting the monarchy and disrespecting the national flag, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

In March, Siwanchalee and Witthaya organized an art installation at several venues in Chiang Mai showing the flag with its blue color replaced by a plastic-wrapped body.

As part of the work, other people had added messages which included “Royal dogs, get out!” and “Fuck 112 If You Use 112, Fuck You Too.” 

Section 112 of the Penal Code, known as lese majeste, punishes anything deemed to be a royal insult with up to 15 years in prison. 

Another anachronistic law that remains in effect is the 1979 Flag Act, which punishes any “display of disrespect” toward the flag with up to six years in prison. Just a few months ago, Thailand’s Miss Universe was in hot water after some social conservatives accused her for “insulting” the Thai flag that was digitally inserted under her feet in a promo image.

Siwanchalee and Witthaya are due in court for a trial to begin May 30, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

In 2014, after the military seized power, students Pronthip “Kolf” Mankong and Patiwat “Bank” Saraiyam were sentenced to prison for a play they staged a year prior called “The Wolf Bride.” They spent two years in prison after being convicted of insulting the royal family.

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