Thai factory worker arrested over lese majeste

He 'liked' altered photo of King; faces up to 32 years in jail

BANGKOK • A Thai man has been arrested for "liking" a doctored photo of the Thai King and sharing an infographic on Facebook about a growing corruption scandal, the military said yesterday, as prosecutions burgeon under the country's draconian royal defamation laws.

The arrest came as Mr Glyn Davies, United States ambassador to Thailand, faces a police investigation for royal defamation over a speech he made last month, in which he expressed concern over lengthy sentences handed to civilians for lese majeste.

In the latest case, auto-parts factory worker Thanakorn Siripaiboon, 27, was arrested at his home near Bangkok and charged with sedition, lese majeste and computer crimes, said Colonel Burin Thongprapai, legal officer for the junta.

"On Dec 2, he clicked 'like' on a doctored photo of the King and shared it with 608 friends," Col Burin told Agence France-Presse, adding that the man had confessed to the charges and faces up to 32 years in jail.

The altered photograph reportedly portrayed the monarch in a negative light.

Under Thai law, anyone convicted of insulting the revered, but ailing, 88-year-old Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and the queen, heir or regent can face up to 15 years in jail on each count.

Prosecutions have soared since the army, which tags itself as the champion of the monarchy, grabbed power last year.

Record-breaking sentences have been handed down to offenders, most of whom are regime critics, but also include senior officials swept up in corruption probes.

Mr Thanakorn, who belonged to the Facebook group of the opposition "red shirts" United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship party, also shared an infographic about Rajabhakti Park.

The multi-million-dollar park in the resort town of Hua Hin was built by the military as a tribute to the monarchy, but has been dogged by calls for greater scrutiny after former army chief Udomdej Sitabutr revealed that a businessman had demanded commissions from foundries involved in the project.

The junta, including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, has insisted there was no graft, but the accusations have still swirled in local media.

Meanwhile, Thai police on Wednesday launched an inquiry into a recent speech made by Ambassador Davies. The police said a formal investigation has not been launched, but an inquiry was under way following a formal complaint.

A police spokesman said: "His Excellency, the ambassador, has diplomatic immunity so it is unlikely anything will proceed against him."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2015, with the headline 'Thai factory worker arrested over lese majeste'. Print Edition | Subscribe