Friday, December 11, 2015

Thai Man Faces 32 Years of Prison for 'Liking' King’s FB Photo

THAILAND. Thanakorn Siripaiboon, a 27 y.o. auto parts factory worker who belonged to an anti-monarchy group on Facebook, has liked a doctored photo of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Mr. Thanakorn also shared an infographic on Facebook about Rajabhakti Park, a US$28 million tourist attraction built by the army under construction contracts allegedly riddled with kickbacks and inflated costs.

Mr. Thanakorn has been arrested and charged with lèse-majesté, sedition and cyber crimes.  Lèse-majesté (injured majesty) is an offense against the dignity of a reigning sovereign of Thailand.  The law stipulates that those convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent can face up to 15 years in jail for each count of the offense. The sentence is handed down by Thai military courts.

Lèse-majesté is enforced especially strictly after ultra-royalist generals have grabbed power in the coup in May 2014. Record sentences have
been handed down to regime critics. In April a businessman was imprisoned for 25 years for posting Facebook messages that were found to be defamatory to the monarchy. Another man was sentenced to 30 years in prison in August for insulting the Thai monarchy on Facebook.

Earlier this year, Thailand’s ruling junta has replaced martial law with new powers that retain much of the same authority to the army but now the convicted individuals can appeal to a higher tribunal for lèse-majesté crimes. Those appeals, however, are still tried at a military court.

Foreigners must also exercise extreme caution so as not to appear offending the royal family. Foreign tourists and journalists have been arrested and prosecuted under the Thai lèse-majesté laws over the year. This is especially dangerous now that the pro-monarchy army has taken power.