A Thai court has ruled that three anti-government activists who had called for reform of the country’s powerful monarchy had violated the constitution by making what it called a veiled attempt to overthrow the institution.
The Constitutional Court, ruling in a case brought by a royalist lawyer, said a controversial 10-point call for reforms of the institution by three student protest leaders in August last year was designed to topple the monarchy.
“The actions have hidden intentions to overthrow the constitutional monarchy and were not a call for reform,” a court judge said.
The court was ruling on the constitutionality of their reform call and imposed no penalty but ordered them and their groups “to cease further action in these matters”.
The role of the monarchy is a taboo topic in Thailand, where the palace is officially above politics and constitutionally enshrined to be held in “revered worship”.
The calls for royal reform by members of a youth-led anti-government protest movement were bold and highly significant in a country that has jailed dozens of critics of the crown and traditionally upholds the king as semi-divine.
The court case concerned a speech by Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul calling for amendments to crown property laws, reducing the royal family’s budget allocation and seeking the abolition of a law that prescribes 15-year jail terms for insulting the monarchy.
Two other protesters, human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, 37, and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, 24, also spoke at the same rally.
A group of protesters gathered near the court on Wednesday, among them Panusaya, who said overthrowing the monarchy was not her goal but that she respected the ruling.
Arnon and Panupong are currently in prison in pre-trial detention on other charges and their lawyer, Kritsadang Nutcharat, said they too had no desire to topple the monarchy.
“The ruling could impact future calls for reform,” Kritsadang added.
The ruling also comes amid calls from an opposition party for a review of the royal insult law, which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
The palace has a longstanding policy of not commenting on the issue.