Jail time for selfies? Thai police pile on impotent threats

Protesters raised three-finger salutes Thursday at Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong Intersection. Photo: Coconuts
Protesters raised three-finger salutes Thursday at Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong Intersection. Photo: Coconuts

The Thai government’s losing efforts to scrub massive protests from the public sphere are leading to ever expansive and peculiar threats, including a police threat that anyone taking a selfie at a rally faces a THB40,000 fine and two years in jail.

Shutting down essential transportation and threatening to arrest all those participating have also failed to stem escalating rallies, as have vows to prosecute those spreading “fake news.” For every threat, police brass point to the newly enacted state of emergency imposed over Bangkok.

“We are under the severe state of emergency, which is a special law. We must hold this law seriously. Everything we do is under international standards,” police spokesperson Krissana Pattanacharoen said Sunday.

The crackdown has elevated two medical professionals – one arrested and one fired – into protest heroes. This morning, doctor Tossaporn Serirak was freed on bail by the Pathumwan Municipal Court after his arrest for violating the emergency decree became a cause celebre.

Tossaporn was greeted with salutes by protesters when he was released at about 9:50am. He was among five arrested Sunday for violating the ban on gatherings of more than four people. His arrest enraged witnesses who said he was only helping negotiate with the police and treat protesters injured by their water cannons on Friday. 

Tossaporn Serirak on Monday morning was granted bail and released at Pathumwan Municipal Court with support from protesters. Photo: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.
Tossaporn Serirak on Monday morning was granted bail and released at Pathumwan Municipal Court with support from protesters. Photo: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said at least 80 people in five provinces have been arrested since Wednesday.  They include key activist leaders such as attorney Arnon Nampa and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul. On Friday evening, a reporter from news nonprofit Prachatai, Kitti Pantapak, who was arrested as he sought directions from an officer following Friday’s crackdown.

Kitti was charged with resisting a lawful order. He was taken to Pathumwan Police Station and released after paying a THB300 fine.

A few hours after the Friday crackdown in which police in full riot gear used water cannons – believed to be mixed with a chemical irritant – to disperse the crowd, a group of nearly 400 doctors from hospitals across Thailand demanded the government and authorities stop using chemical-laced water or tear gas against protesters in a joint statement. 

For signing the statement, at least one doctor was fired by her hospital: Jarosdao Rimpanichkit of Mongkutwattana General Hospital. The military facility’s director, Maj. Gen. Rientong Nanna, said the hospital doesn’t tolerate employees who are “allied with the king’s enemies.”

Despite the state of extreme emergency in place over the capital since Thursday, protesters went on to gather at venues across the metropolitan area, which quickly spread to provinces throughout the nation. 

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CITY: BANGKOKCATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: POLITICS

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