While in the United States a Fox News guest can call President Barack Obama “a total p***y,” people in Thailand can’t even like a Facebook post critical of the monarchy without getting jailed.
A man from the province of Samut Prakan has been arrested for liking a Photoshopped photo of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and sharing an infographic on Facebook about a political corruption scandal.
Thanakorn Siripaiboon, a 27-year-old worker in an auto parts factory, was taken into custody and charged with sedition, cyber crimes, and lèse majesté, a law violating majesty, an offense against the dignity of a reigning sovereign.
"On Dec. 2, he clicked 'like' link on a doctored photo of the king and shared it with 608 friends," Col Burin Thongprapai, a legal officer for the ruling junta, told AFP. He added Thanakorn had confessed to the charges and faced a 32-year prison sentence.
The case comes as a U.S. ambassador and a British envoy have come under fire for allegedly committing similar offenses against the ruling family.
It is believed lèse majesté is used by the Thai junta to silence political opponents and critics.
Following the 2014 coup, the military has handed down record-breaking sentences for insulting the monarchy. As of September, in the first 15 months of the new government, 53 people were investigated for royal insults, at least 40 of whom allegedly posted or shared comments online, according to data provided by iLaw, a Bangkok-based legal monitoring group.
“The military arrests you, gets your Facebook and other passwords, accesses them, prints things out and gets you to sign that it’s yours. After that they go to the court, get a warrant, and then they send you to the police,” Sasinan Thamnithinan from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights told Reuters.
What’s worse, there’s little hope for change since the people arrested by the junta are tried in military courts.
“The lèse majesté law should be amended so that it complies with Thailand's international legal obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” Amnesty International Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific stated in February.