Thai minister calls for 'social sanctions' on critics of royals

BANGKOK • Thais should "socially sanction" those who defame the monarchy following King Bhumibol Adulyadej's death, the junta's Justice Minister has said, as fresh videos emerged of mob justice against people accused of insulting the institution.

The death of the world's longest- reigning monarch last Thursday has left the nation bereft of its key pillar of unity and sparked a remarkable mass outpouring 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 told reporters yesterday 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.

Yesterday, a video was broadcast live on Facebook showing a mob kicking and beating a man and forcing him to prostrate himself in apology for allegedly insulting the monarchy.

During the beating, which appeared to take place in Chonburi, east of Bangkok, the man cried out: "I didn't mean to do it, I love the King! It's my fault."

Another video widely shared on social media showed an elderly woman on a Bangkok bus being berated by fellow commuters in the presence of police.

As she exited the bus, the woman was slapped in the face by another woman dressed in black.

It is unclear when the incident occurred but the video was uploaded on Monday evening.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan- o-cha did not address the mob violence when he briefed reporters yesterday, although he urged Thais not to make inflammatory comments.

"I ask for cooperation from public not to broadcast or send such messages as it hurts the feelings of Thai people and is illegal," he said.

Thailand's monarchy is protected by a draconian lese majeste law that outlaws criticism with punishments of up to 15 years in jail for each insult uttered.

But the authorities have struggled to censor critics or overseas-based media.

The military government said yesterday that it would ask other countries to extradite people suspected of insulting King Bhumibol, but that is unlikely to sway governments in countries where lese majeste is not a crime.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'Thai minister calls for 'social sanctions' on critics of royals'. Print Edition | Subscribe