Within hours of Thailand having its new king, the first lese majeste case of the new reign is with the military and police.
Prachatai reports that “police have arrested a leading member of an anti-junta activist group for sharing the biography of the new [k]ing … published by the BBC Thai” on 1 December and widely shared on social media. The regime has zeroed in on Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa a.k.a. Pai Daodin because he is a political activist, a member of the New Democracy Movement and an anti-junta activist.
We are not sure we can locate the correct story. The report we found for 1 December is also a video report. It is innocuous, verging on palace propaganda. There is another dated 2 December, and this may the report mentioned, either in a mix-up of dates because of time difference or because the story has been amended. That report includes some comments on the prince’s past.
The report on Jatuphat’s arrest says that at “about 8:45 am on 3 December 2016, police officers arrested [him], while he was participating in a rally with a group of Buddhist monks in the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum.”
His accuser is listed as “Lt Col Phitakphon Chusri, a soldier of the 23rd Military Circle of Khon Kaen Province, [who] accused him of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, for sharing the biography of King Vajiralongkorn, Rama X, published by the BBC Thai.”
We suspect that the clampdown on lese majeste, already extreme, is going to become deeper as the military dictatorship is keen to ensure the new king’s blemished past is erased.
Update 1: A reader rightly points out that we neglected some aspects of the Prachatai story. The story states that there have been more than 3,000 shares of the BBC Thai post. The arrest of Jatuphat is therefore all the more pointed as an act of political vengeance. The story also states that the “activist told Prachatai that he will not delete the article he posted on his Facebook profile, saying that he did not write any personal comment on the post, but [was] merely sharing it along with the last four paragraphs of the article.” Readers might also be interested in an English-language BBC story about the prince.
Update 2: A statement by the Dao Din group on the arrest of Jaruphat:
Jarupat (Pai) Boonpattararaksa is a member of Dao Din and a person who habitually uses Facebook in accessing various kinds of information and news. He is no different than the rest of us who can access social media more easily than 7-Eleven. He is one of thousands of people who shared a news story published BBC-Thai, but in his case a warrant for his arrest under Article 112 was issued for sharing this information. The person who has brought the case is a soldier. At this time, the police have taken Jatupat to the Khon Kaen police station to proceed with the case.
These actions by the authorities are a grave violation of and are in conflict with the principles of human rights and freedom of expression in line with democracy. These actions are a clear instance of selective treatment by the authorities and indicate the lack of respect for rights and freedom in Thai society, as no one should be arrested for simply posting on Facebook. We are simply students, and the children and grandchildren of ordinary, common people who have become victims of the powerful who have fixed upon and attack Dao Din.
Therefore, we call for the unconditional and immediate release of our brother and member of Dao Din, and call for the criminal charge for merely sharing news on Facebook to be dropped.
In the spirit of human rights
3 December 2016