Thai activist arrested for alleged defamation of new king on Facebook
A student was arrested by the Thailand police on Saturday after sharing a profile of newly installed King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Facebook by the Thai-language service of the BBC.
Jatupat Boonpattararaksa was arrested in north-eastern Thailand and charged under the country’s lese-majeste law with royal insult under Article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code in the city of Khon Kaen. Apparently, this is the first arrest under the country’s tough lese-majeste law since King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun took the throne on Thursday, succeeding his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died at the age of 88 in October.
Article 112 says anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” will be punished with up to 15 years in prison.
Jatupat is a prominent pro-democracy activist of Dao Din, a small student organization that has held public protests against Thailand’s military government and disobeying its orders.
Police Colonel Jaturon Trakulpan, a superintendent in north-eastern Chaiyaphum province, said, “We caught him at a temple.”
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a rights group representing Jatupat, accuse the military-backed government of using the royal defamation law as a way of cracking down on opponents.
Even, social media users have questioned why Jatupat was targeted by police in view of the fact that some 2,000 other Facebook users also shared the BBC link.
“This post was shared many times. We question why he was singled out,” Anon Chawalawan of iLaw told Reuters. “It might be because he has a history of staging anti-junta protests.”
International rights groups and some Bangkok-based Western diplomats have criticized Thailand’s harsh sentences for lese-majeste convictions.
Last year, two people received record jail sentences of 25 and 30 years respectively for Facebook posts were considered insulting to the monarchy.
The author Kavita Iyer
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