BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - The Thai military's use of a law protecting the monarchy from criticism has "reached the absurd" with criminal charges filed against a man for allegedly insulting the king's dog, a rights group said.
A 27-year-old factory worker was charged Dec 14 with violating Thailand's lese-majeste law, which allows for up to 15 years in prison for those convicted of defaming, insulting or threatening the king, queen, heir apparent or regent.
He is accused of spreading "sarcastic" images of the king's dog on social media, Human Rights Watch said in a statement Friday (Dec 18).
"The abuse of lese-majeste law has reached the absurd with the prosecution of a factory worker for allegedly offending the monarchy by insulting the king's dog," said Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch's Asia director. "The heavy-handed enforcement of lese-majeste laws is crushing freedom of expression in Thailand."
The military junta that seized control of Thailand in a May 2014 coup has made a priority of pursuing lese-majeste cases. It has shifted authority for the cases from civilian courts to military tribunals, where record sentences have been handed down since the coup, including an initial 60-year sentence for a man convicted of committing lese majeste in multiple Facebook posts.
Since the coup, many lese-majeste suspects have been held at military camps instead of regular jails. Recently two suspects in a high-profile case died while in military custody.