BANGKOK (AFP) – Police raided a Thai publishing house on Saturday (March 20) and confiscated a controversial book written by a prominent pro-democracy leader about the monarchy’s role in society, ahead of a planned anti-government protest.
The protest is scheduled for 6 pm (7pm Singapore time) in front of the Grand Palace, where organisers planned to distribute copies of “The Institution of Monarchy in Thailand’s Society”.
Published by Same Sky Books publishing house – which has printed many controversial titles – the 33-page pamphlet is authored by human rights lawyer Anon Numpa. He is one of the most prominent faces of Thailand’s pro-democracy movement, which has for months issued demands that include reforms to the kingdom’s unassailable monarchy.
Police Major Trirong Prasopmongkol confirmed that authorities raided the publishing house’s premises just north of the capital on Saturday morning, adding that they confiscated approximately “100 books”.
“The next step is we will have experts examine the content to see whether if it is illegal,” he told AFP.
“This raid is related to the protest today because protesters said on social media that they will distribute these books.”
Protest organisers Redem – short for “Restart Democracy” – had announced on Facebook that the first 10,000 arrivals would receive a free copy. After the raid, Redem issued another post with the book’s e-copy, inviting demonstrators to download it and “read it out loud”.
Thailand’s pro-democracy protests kicked off in July, at their peak drawing tens of thousands, who gathered across Bangkok to call for an overhaul of Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha’s administration and a rewrite of a military-scripted constitution.
But their most controversial demands – first publicly raised by Anon – have been for reforms to the monarchy, including the abolition of draconian royal defamation laws. The laws shield the ultra-powerful King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his family from defamation, but rights groups say its broad use means anything perceived as criticism can land a person in jail for up to 15 years per charge.
Since the movement kicked off, more than 60 people have been charged under the lese majeste law, and a handful of the most prominent leaders – including Anon – are also detained.
The movement has slowed in recent months, drawing just hundreds, but local media reported that 3,000 crowd control police would be deployed for Saturday’s rally.