THAILAND’S military government is seeking the repatriation of people suspected of insulting the royal family as the country continues to mourn the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
According to Reuters, the junta said six high-profile suspects living abroad have been identified and the government was tracking their alleged moves to create unrest in the country.
Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya was quoted as telling reporters that the government will seek their extradition.
“We will ask for cooperation, friendship and respect from these countries and we hope that they understand that all Thais cannot accept these insults,” he said.
Paiboon acknowledged that the requests for extradition would pose a legal and diplomatic challenge but this would not deter the country’s efforts.
King Bhumibol passed away peacefully at a Bangkok hospital on Thursday and the country’s civil sector is observing a year-long mourning period. The late king was revered with demigod-like status, and many in the country have become increasingly sensitive over nuances of criticisms or direct insults aimed at the royal figure.
Thailand’s lese majeste laws, a French term to describe criticism towards the monarch or family, is punishable by 15 years prison.
Last week, telecommunications firms in the country issued instructions to customers to report any “inappropriate content about the royal institution” that they see across any media platform, including on social media sites like Facebook.
The instructions posted by mobile operators Advanced Info Service Pcl (AIS), Total Access Communication Pcl and True Move on messaging applications and Facebook pages, were issued following a request from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, the kingdom’s broadcasting regulator.
In the days after his passing, several regulatory bodies in the kingdom issued directives and guidelines governing public behavior during the period of mourning for the king.
Media outlets bathed their websites in black and white, while TV channels aired somber news and dedications to the late king. According to NBTC, failure to report inappropriate content is considered a crime.
The Thai public wore black and white to symbolize the period of mourning while tourists to the kingdom were advised to dress appropriately and behave respectfully when out and about.
On Sunday, a Thai woman accused of insulting the late king was forced to kneel before his portrait outside a police station on the island of Samui as several hundred people bayed for an apology.
The public shaming of the woman was the latest of at least two such incidents to occur after the monarch died.
Authorities are also urging calm as social media throbs with criticism of people who aren’t wearing black and white clothing to mourn the revered monarch. A government spokesman said some Thais can’t afford mourning clothes and urged tolerance.
There have been reports of price gouging as demand for such clothing has surged.
Foreign governments have warned citizens in Thailand to avoid behavior that could be interpreted as disrespectful.
Additional reporting from the Associated Press