On 3 March 2021, Thai singer, anti-government activist and member of the band Bottom Blues, Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan was arrested on lèse majesté charges following the arrest warrants issued a day earlier against three persons suspected of burning a portrait of His Majesty the King in Bangkok on 28 February, reported The Thaiger.
“Arresting Chaiamorn ‘Ammy’ Kaewwiboonpan for his activism is an illegitimate restriction of freedom of expression violating Thailand’s legal obligations under international laws such as the ICCPR and ICESCR,” said Dr Srirak Plipat, Freemuse Executive Director. “We call on the Thai authorities to immediately release Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan from detention and drop all charges that may be charged against him. Thailand must adhere to international laws and provide artists and persons with space to freely express themselves, including when their opinions disagree or criticise the government or its actions.”
Ammy’s arrest is worrying in the light of the State of Artistic Freedom 2021 report, in which Freemuse raised concern over detentions and repercussions against artists in Thailand, particularly when they participate in political protests.
The artist has been arrested for alleged arson and violation of the Criminal Code Section 112 prohibiting insulting the royal family, a crime punishable with up to 15 years in prison and the Computer Crime Act. Ammy’s mother proposed a bail of 90,000 Thai baht (approximately 2,450 euros), but the court denied it on the grounds of a possibility of escape.
According to Bangkok Post, the singer was arrested in relation to a protest organised outside a Bangkok prison on 28 February to support four members of a youth-led protest movement who are held there over comments about the royal family during demonstrations in 2020.
Ammy confessed to burning the royal portrait in a statement published on Facebook, saying it was a “foolish idea” and highlighting the hidden, symbolic meaning behind the burning of the portrait.
Freemuse calls for the immediate release of Chaiamorn “Ammy” Kaewwiboonpan from detention and dropping all charges that may be charged against the artist.