Public shaming for royal insults
THAIS should “socially sanction” those who defame the monarchy following King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death, the junta’s justice minister said yesterday, as fresh videos emerged of mob justice against people accused of insulting the institution.
The death on October 13 of the world’s longest reigning monarch has left the nation bereft of its key pillar of unity and seen mass outpourings of grief from black-clad Thais.
But it has also unleashed small but vocal ultra-monarchist forces, including mobs and online crusaders scouring the web and bent on punishing anyone perceived to have insulted the monarchy.
“There is no better way to punish these people than to socially sanction them,” Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said as he vowed to “pursue those people who violate the law”.
His message comes amid a growing number of cases of vigilantism by royalist Thais against people accused of insulting the monarchy.
A video broadcast live on Facebook yesterday showed a mob kicking and beating a man and forcing him to prostrate himself in apology for allegedly insulting the monarchy.
Prosecutions over royal slurs have surged under the military which seized power two years ago, and record-breaking sentences have been handed in some cases.
The lese majeste law makes detailed discussion about the monarchy’s role – and its future after King Bhumibol’s 70-year reign – all but impossible.
The atmosphere in Bangkok has been overwhelmingly sombre and calm since the death of the king.
But there has been an uptick of angry social media calls by hardline royalists for vigilante action against alleged transgressors of “112” – the criminal code that covers the feared lese majeste law.
A woman on Samui island was forced by police to kneel below a portrait of King Bhumibol in front of a baying mob after she allegedly posted an insulting comment about the monarchy on Facebook. She has since been charged with lese majeste.
Other social media users have berated those deemed not to be mourning sufficiently deeply or failing to wear black clothes.
But the latter phenomenon, dubbed “black-shaming”, has been condemned by the junta.
Its leader Prayut Chan-o-cha did not address the mob violence when he briefed reporters yesterday, though he urged Thais not to make inflammatory comments.
“I ask for cooperation from the public not to broadcast or send such messages as it hurts the feelings of Thai people and is illegal,” he said.
Justice Minister Paiboon said the junta would renew extradition requests for Thais abroad – something that is unlikely to sway governments in countries where lese majeste is not a crime. –
Paiboon Koomchaya has issued a stern warning.