Americans can take solace in the fact that no matter whom they elect next year to lead the country, they will still be allowed to make fun of the person in charge. Not so in Thailand, where insulting the royal family can draw convictions of up to 15 years in prison per infraction under the country’s strict lèse majesté law.
In August, a 48-year-old Thai man was sentenced to 30 years in prison for Facebook activity deemed insulting to the monarchy, a record sentence at the time, according to a quote from the man’s lawyer in the Guardian. And Glyn Davies, the US ambassador to Thailand, is currently under investigation for criticizing the country in comments he made at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand on Nov. 25.
And now comes the case of Thai factory worker Thanakorn Siripaiboon, who was arrested at his home in the Samut Prakan province, south of Bangkok, on Dec. 10 and charged with sedition, cyber crime, and the defaming of Thailand’s 88-year-old king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, according to Agence France-Presse.
“On December 2, he clicked ‘Like’ link on a doctored photo of the King and shared it with 608 friends,” Col Burin Thongprapai, legal officer for the National Council for Peace and Order, told AFP.
Siripaiboon, 27, is also accused of sharing an infographic detailing alleged kickbacks in the construction of Rajabhakti Park, a 1 billion baht ($27.7 million USD) tourist attraction built by the Royal Thai Army. Reports of graft in the construction of the park, which opened in August 2015, were confirmed by former army chief Udomdet Sitabutr, but the government has refused to look into the matter. Students and civilians who have called for accountability have been silenced and arrested.
According to AFP, Siripaiboon pleaded guilty to both charges.
A Thai human rights group recently cited by the Guardian says that the number of defamation cases against Thai citizens has risen from two to at least 56 in the past two years, since the army came to power.