On October 27, 2014, a student and an activist were charged in Thai criminal courts with lèse majesté – insulting the monarchy – for staging a play called “The Wolf Bride” at Thammasat University roughly one year earlier.
Patiwat Saraiyaem, a student at Khon Kaen University’s Fine and Applied Arts Faculty, acted in the play, while activist Pornthip Mankong coordinated the production. The play, which is about a fictional monarchy, was staged as part of Thammasat University’s commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of pro-democracy student demonstrations that occurred in October 1973.
Saraiyaem and Mankong were arrested separately in mid-August 2014. Despite repeated requests for bail, the two were detained for almost 70 days before being officially charged with lèse majesté, under Section 112 of the Thai penal code, on October 27. The charges carry a sentence of 3 to 15 years. Saraiyaem and Mankong are due to return to court on December 29.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about prosecution and imprisonment in retaliation for nonviolent, expressive activity on campus – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with such expressive activity, so long as it is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Prosecution and imprisonment aimed at limiting such expressive activity undermine academic freedom, university autonomy and democratic society generally.
UPDATE: On December 29, 2014, Saraiyaem and Mankong pleaded guilty to the lèse majesté charge, reportedly aiming to secure reduced sentences. On February 23, 2015, the court sentenced Saraiyaem and Mankong to two years and six months each in prison.
UPDATE: On August 13, 2016, Saraiyaem was released after receiving a royal pardon. Two weeks later, on August 27, Mankong was also released from prison after she and as many as 100 other female prisoners received pardons.