THAILAND - The Criminal Court yesterday granted a police request to issue an arrest warrant for a red-shirt leader accused of lese majeste, as the Army chief called on him to turn himself in or he would find it difficult to stay in Thailand.
Police earlier yesterday sought to issue a warrant for the arrest of Wuthipong Kotthamma-khun, also known as Ko Tee, who is accused of insulting the monarchy in an interview given to a Swedish journalist during a red-shirt rally in early February.
A video clip showing him giving the interview has gone viral. The government's Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) said its examination of the clip found that Ko Tee's interview might have violated the lese majeste law in Article 112 of the Penal Code.
Police yesterday were hunting for Ko Tee and were trying to reach the Swedish journalist for more details about the interview, said Pol Maj-General Naraboon Naenna, acting commander of the Crime Suppression Division. He said a police team of more than 30 investigators were dealing with this case.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha, commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army, yesterday said Ko Tee drew widespread hatred for insulting the monarchy.
"If he does not surrender to fight the legal case, he will find it difficult to stay here. He won't be allowed to harm the monarchy; it's tantamount to hurting the feelings of the Thai people all over the country," Prayuth said.
"The Thai people should [consider] if his behaviour is proper. If it is not, should he stay somewhere else? I don't know. I don't want to expel him," he added.
The Army chief also said he wondered why Ko Tee was so daring in what he had done. When asked if he thought there were some people behind Ko Tee's alleged moves against the monarchy, Prayuth said the media should find out about that.
"You have reported that certain individuals are looking after him. You have to check that out. The Army is looking into this matter," he said.
On Thursday, Ko Tee told a Nation News Agency reporter over the phone he was in an unspecified foreign country. He insisted he was not fleeing the law but was on business. Ko Tee said he would fight the allegation of lese majeste and claimed the video clip was doctored to frame him.
Meanwhile, Phra Buddha Issara, a leader of the anti-government movement, yesterday filed a complaint with two police stations against Ko Tee - at Bangkok's Don Muang police station and at Khu Khot police station in Pathum Thani. He gave police seven days to take action otherwise he and other protesters would return to police stations.