Protesting The Thai Junta Can Land You 15 Years In Prison

Shawn Bailey

Hitting the "Like" button can get you three to fifteen in a Thai prison. This is thanks to an existing law called lèse-majesté. The law makes it a crime to insult or threaten the king, and has been in the Thai law books since 1908. Although there have been several different constitutions in Thailand over the years, they all contain the following clause:

"The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action."
"Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years."

Those whose attitudes don't change could end up in prison for the next 15 years, or worse. Ampon Tangnoppakul was 61 when he died in prison. His crime consisted of four text messages that were taken as insults by the Royals. Another law recently created is called the Computer Crime Act. This nebulous law, much like lèse-majesté, has acted as a blanket law to silence any of the junta's opposition. The formal name of these censorship police is the Technology Crime Suppression Division. And yes, clicking the "Like" button on an article that speaks out against the current regime is considered a crime. Also considered a crime is the 'Hunger Games' three finger salute, a symbol that changes meaning depending on which protester you ask, but certainly represents a collective solidarity with pro-democracy supporters.

The NCPO's crackdown has led many anti-Royals, referred to as Red Shirts, to flee Thailand. Jakrapob Penkair, a former government minister, was suspected of lèse-majesté and fled to Cambodia. Penkair talks of political pressure and forming pockets of resistance outside of Thailand. The U.S. and other European countries have already condemned the coup. A journalist for Reuter's named Andrew MacGregor Marshall was writing a report on Thai politics when he fled to Phnom Penh, fearing his work could land him in prison. And a 48-year-old Thai man known online as "Pruay Salty Head" was detained for five hours for making online political comments. He was released, and left Thailand after coming to the conclusion he could not stop speaking out against the current junta.

"I asked myself whether or not I could stop [posting critical comments]. I couldn't."

Still, amid the turmoil, there are tourists roaming Thailand. One Irish tourist named Sinead Dowd commented on the more important aspects of the countrywide curfew being lifted.

"It's brilliant because like last night we wanted to see the World Cup match but we couldn't because it was on at 2 a.m."

Note: Some of the information gathered for this article came from the Bangkok Post. The English-language newspaper is published out of Bangkok, Thailand, the only city still under curfew laws because of protests.

Image via Malay Mail Online