Woman charged with royal slur

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Thai po­lice yes­ter­day charged a woman with royal defama­tion after a mob de­manded action over a Facebook post al­legedly smear­ing the “heir and re­gent”, as the coun­try mourns King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej. Thai­land has one of the world’s harsh­est lese ma­jeste laws, with jail terms of up to 15 years for each count of de­fam­ing or in­sult­ing the king, queen, heir or re­gent. The woman, who has not been named, was ac­cused of post­ing a deroga­tory state­ment on Facebook on Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to Thewes Pleum­sud of Bo Pud po­lice in the south­east­ern is­land of Koh Sa­mui.

“She did not post against the late King-it in­volved the heir and the re­gent,” he said, re­fer­ring to Crown Prince Maha Va­ji­ra­longkorn, and the 96-year-old Prem Tin­su­lanonda who in a sur­prise move be­came tem­po­rary re­gent on Fri­day. He de­clined to give fur­ther de­tails since do­ing so could vi­o­late the catch-all law. Prem, a for­mer prime min­is­ter and Bhu­mi­bol’s Privy Coun­cil head, will act as re­gent un­til the Crown Prince for­mally as­cends the throne.

An an­gry mob de­scended on Bo Pud po­lice sta­tion yes­ter­day de­mand­ing the woman be charged. The crowd hurled in­sults at the woman, ac­cord­ing to videos widely shared on Facebook. Po­lice said she was charged and then pub­licly pros­trated her­self in apol­ogy be­fore a por­trait of the king, who died on Thurs­day aged 88 — prompt­ing a wave of grief across the na­tion.

Two other sim­i­lar cases since the king’s death-in which an­gry crowds urged pun­ish­ment for al­leged royal defama­tion on so­cial me­dia-have raised fears of mob action. Do­mes­tic and for­eign me­dia out­lets based in the coun­try rou­tinely self-censor to avoid fall­ing foul of the broadly worded law, while so­cial op­pro­brium fol­lows those per­ceived to have over­stepped the mark.

Crit­ics say the law-known as ‘112’ after its crim­i­nal code-has en­cour­aged witch hunts by the pub­lic, with po­lice and courts obliged to in­ves­ti­gate all ac­cu­sa­tions. The law pre­vents all but the most cur­sory pub­lic discussion of Thai­land’s monar­chy, or re­port­ing or de­bate on the is­sue. Cases have surged since roy­al­ist gen­er­als ousted a civil­ian gov­ern­ment from power in 2014.

Re­port­ing in­sults

Thai­land’s main mo­bile tele­coms op­er­a­tors in­structed cus­tomers yes­ter­day to report “in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­tent about the royal in­sti­tu­tion”, as the gov­ern­ment steps up scru­tiny for ma­te­rial deemed in­sult­ing to the monar­chy. King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej died on Thurs­day after seven decades on the throne. His son, Crown Prince Maha Va­ji­ra­longkorn, is due to be­come the next king after a pe­riod of mourn­ing. — Agen­cies

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