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Thailand to probe profile of new king for lese-majeste

Police had earlier arrested anti-junta activist for sharing profile of King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Facebook

06.12.2016
Thailand to probe profile of new king for lese-majeste

By Max Constant

BANGKOK

Thailand’s junta announced Tuesday that police have been ordered to investigate whether a profile of the country’s new king published last week violates harsh lese-majeste laws aimed at protecting the monarchy.

The profile was published Friday by the BBC’s Thai-language service, a day after King Maha Vajiralongkorn accepted to ascend the throne following the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, on Oct. 13.

Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy prime minister and minister of defense in Thailand’s military government, told Spring TV on Tuesday that he had instructed authorities to strictly follow the law, stressing the need to prosecute “publishers of illegal and defamatory content”.

“No privilege and no discrimination. The authorities are investigating the case because there is both true and false information in the biography,” he added.

The story was shared almost 3,000 times on the first day of publication, only to be blocked by Thai authorities Tuesday.

On Saturday, an anti-junta activist, Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, was arrested under the lese-majeste law -- punishable with a jail sentence of 3-15 years -- for having shared the article on his Facebook page.

He was granted bail Sunday.

After its publication, comments slamming the profile and BBC Thai journalists were posted on Facebook, some including physical threats and disclosing the location of the service’s Bangkok office.

Several police officers arrived at the office Tuesday to investigate, but found it to be closed.

On Monday, a spokeswoman for BBC News in London said the company stood by the story.

“BBC Thai was established to bring impartial, independent and accurate news to a country where the media faces restrictions,” Charlotte Morgan told the BenarNews Thai website. “We are confident that this article adheres to the BBC’s editorial principles.”

The incriminated excerpts from the profile cannot be quoted as doing so would itself run afoul of the lese-majeste law.

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