Thailand: Man to get life in prison for liking a Facebook photo?

Thailand: Man to get life in prison for liking a Facebook photo?

Thursday, December 17, 2015 by: Daniel Barker

Many (if not most) Facebook users have been known to regret having posted something at one point or another, but few have ever imagined the type of repercussions that a Thailand man now faces: up to 32 years in jail for merely clicking the “Like” button.

As crazy as it sounds, it’s true. Thanakorn Siripaiboon, a 27-year-old auto parts factory worker, was recently arrested and charged with “lese-majeste” (an offense violating the dignity of a ruler), computer crimes and sedition, for “liking” a doctored photo of the country’s ruling monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The man is also accused of sharing an infographic describing a current political scandal in Thailand.

Thailand’s laws regarding its monarchy are extremely strict: anyone convicted of insulting the King, Queen or any other member of the royal family is subject to up to 15 years in prison for each count.

Thanakorn Siripaiboon has confessed to the charges, and could now spend up to 32 years behind bars, according to Col. Burin Thongprapai, legal officer for the National Council for Peace and Order.

“On December 2, he clicked ‘Like’ link on a doctored photo of the King and shared it with 608 friends,” said Col. Thongprapai, as reported by the Bangkok Post.

Siripaiboon is also in trouble for sharing an infographic related to what is known as the Rajabhakti Park scandal.

From the Post:

“Mr Thanakorn, who belonged to an opposition red-shirt Facebook group, also shared an infographic about Rajabhakti Park, the billion-baht tourist attraction built by the army under construction contracts allegedly riddled with kickbacks and inflated costs.”

The same infographic was the cause of another recent arrest in Thailand, in which a woman turned herself over to police after having also posted it on her own Facebook page. She was charged with sedition. Her case is still under investigation.

Lese-majeste charges on the increase in Thailand since 2014 junta

Thailand has a reputation of aggressively prosecuting those accused of offending the King’s dignity, particularly since the May 2014 junta involving arch-royalist generals who seized the reins of power from the democratically-elected government.

In another more recent twist regarding the unfortunate Thanakorn Siripaiboon, it appears that he has also been charged with lese-majeste for “mocking the king’s dog.”

From The Guardian:

“Thanakorn Siripaiboon was charged by a military court with making a ‘sarcastic’ internet post about Tongdaeng, or Copper, a much-loved street mongrel rescued by King Bhumibol Adulyadej from an alley.”

The dog, “praised for her loyalty and obedience,” is extremely popular in Thailand. The king published a book about her which he wrote and illustrated himself. There is even an animated film based on her which is currently “second in the box office” in Thailand.

However revered the mutt called Tongdaeng is in Thailand, Thanakorn’s lawyer said he “never imagined they would use the law for the royal dog.” Calling the charge “nonsense,” he added that the military court has not identified exactly what the insult consisted of.

Don’t laugh – it could happen here…

Although it may seem easy to dismiss Thailand’s extremist policies as isolated and backwards, it’s worth considering the fact that the United States is beginning to shift in a similar direction.

Free speech is becoming replaced by politically correct speech, and anyone who dares to speak out against liberal policies or in support of the Second Amendment, for instance, may suddenly find themselves on a no-fly list or labeled as a “potential terrorist.”

The situation in Thailand should serve as a reminder that freedom of speech is a precious right and must be defended rigorously. At no time in American history has this fundamental right been so endangered.

Let us never forget what freedom of speech means and how valuable it truly is.

And let us never allow it to be taken from us.


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