Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha promised on Thursday to pursue all legal avenues against pro-democracy protestors who are demanding his resignation and changes to the constitution, including limiting the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Protestors expressed concern that Prayuth’s threat could result in the resumption of prosecutions under some of the world’s harshest laws barring insults of the royal family.
“Prayuth has declared a battle against the people,” said protest leader and rights attorney Arnon Nampa.
Prayuth’s warning came as demonstrations for reforms have escalated.
Protests on Wednesday were the most violent since July, as thousands of protestors hurled paint at police headquarters in Bangkok in response to police firing water cannons and tear gas at protestors the previous day, injuring dozens of them. Some protestors painted graffiti against the monarchy.
“The situation is not improving,” Prayuth said in a statement. “There is risk of escalation to more violence. If not addressed, it could damage the country and the beloved monarchy.”
Prayuth did not say if he would enforce Article 112 of the country’s criminal code, which prohibits citizens from insulting the monarchy.
But some royalists responded to the anti-monarchy graffiti by calling for the application of Article 112 against protestors on social media.
Protest leaders have been among the dozens of activists who have been arrested on a variety of charges in recent months, but not for criticizing the monarchy.