Thai man arrested for royal insult on Facebook

Thai police yesterday said they had arrested a 40-year-old man for allegedly posting pictures, audio clips and messages deemed insulting to the royal family on the social networking site Facebook. Surapak Phuchaisaeng was arrested in Bangkok, said a senior police officer at the Technology Crime Suppression Division.

Felonious: In Thailand, it is a crime to insult the nation's King Bhumibol
Adulyadej. It can land you in jail for 15 years in prison.
File pic/Getty

Under Thailand's controversial lese majeste legislation, anybody convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count. Surapak, who also faces related charges under the Computer Crime Act, is one of the first people arrested for insulting the monarchy since a new government took power last month.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said after her July 3 election win that the rules should not be misused, following several high-profile cases against supporters of her brother Thaksin, Thailand's fugitive former leader.

But in a sign she did not want a direct confrontation with the country's powerful elites, her government has since vowed to set up a "war room" to crack down on alleged online royal insults.

Earlier this month more than 100 international academics called on Thailand to review the tough laws, saying political abuse of the legislation is undermining human rights.

The laws have come under heavy criticism from rights groups, which have expressed concern that they have been used to suppress freedom of expression under the last government, considered close to the establishment.

In March, a webmaster was jailed for 13 years after the Internet site he ran, linked to the opposition movement, allegedly published comments insulting the monarchy.

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