A Thai man faces up to 32 years in jail for ‘liking’ a Photoshopped image of the country’s king on Facebook. Thanakorn Siripaiboon was arrested at his home in Samut Prakan province for sharing the doctored photo of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, as well as an infographic on a Thai corruption scandal, with around 600 friends.
Under Thai law, anyone convicted of insulting the revered but ailing 88-year-old king can face up to 15 years in jail on each count. “On December 2, he clicked the ‘like’ link on a doctored photo of the king and shared it with 608 friends,” said Colonel Burin Thongprapai, a military junta legal officer.
He said the 27-year-old mechanic has confessed to charges of sedition, lese majeste and computer crimes, and faces up to 32 years behind bars. Human rights lawyers warned Mr Thanakorn, who belongs to an opposition red-shirt Facebook group, is at risk of becoming another victim of “enforced disappearance” in the military-ruled country.
“He is under military custody,” said Col Burin Thongprapai, adding that he would appear at a military court on Monday.
“He is well and in good condition,” he added.
Prosecutions for insulting the king have soared since the army, which calls itself the champion of the monarchy, grabbed power last year.
In the last two months, at least two people, including the celebrity fortune teller of the crown prince, have died in custody after being charged with lese majeste.
Human Rights Watch said the use of secret military jails has “now become a new standard nationwide” under the junta.
“There is nothing at all to guarantee the safety of those held incommunicado in military detention … without access to their families and lawyers, and interrogated by soldiers without safeguards against mistreatment,” a spokesman for the group said.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, who are providing legal help for Mr Thanakorn and his family, said they have “no idea” where he is being held and assume he “has become a victim of enforced disappearance”.
The infographic he is accused of sharing is about Rajabhakti Park, a £13m statue-filled park honouring the country’s past monarchs. It was built by the army under construction contracts allegedly riddled with bribes and inflated costs
Last month, a woman handed herself in to police and was charged with sedition for sharing the same graphic. Police said she is still under investigation.
Dozens of students were detained in separate incidents earlier this month while trying to visit the park in Hua Hin to draw attention to the scandal.
Junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha seized power in May 2014 in a coup that toppled the democratically-elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra after months of political chaos.
He said the coup was needed to restore order, but critics say the Thai elite wanted to grab power as fears mount over the country’s future as the king’s reign enters its final years.