THAI authorities are coming down hard on those who insult the monarchy following a spike in cases seen since the death of the country’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej earlier this month.
National police chief Jakthip Chaijinda said there was a noticeable increase in cases, with 20 currently under investigation, and arrest warrants issued for eight suspects.
Jakthip was quoted by Channel News Asia (via Reuters) as saying that the authorities would not allow any room for such insults, adding those who were considering do so should leave Thailand.
“For lese-majeste cases, if people don’t want to live in Thailand they should go abroad,” Jakthip told a press conference.
“If they don’t have money for the air fare, I will pay for it, they can ask me to buy their plane ticket.”
King Bhumibol, a widely venerated figure in the country, died on Oct 13 after 70 years on the throne. He was 88.
In the wake of the king’s demise, the junta government announced a one year mourning period. Several days after his passing, regulatory bodies in the kingdom issued directives and guidelines governing public behavior during the period of mourning for the king.
The late king was revered with demigod-like status, and since his death, people 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, the government said it was seeking the repatriation of people suspected of insulting the royal family from abroad to face justice in Thailand.
Human rights organizations have condemned the alleged abuse of the law by the military junta which came into power in 2014.
Prince Vajiralongkorn, who King Bhumibol had named heir apparent many years prior to his passing, has requested for a delay in his ascension to the throne to allow him time to mourn his father’s death.
The long-ailing king ruled Thailand for 70 years since 1946, surviving numerous coups and violent political conflicts. He anchored the Southeast Asian country through violent upheavals at home and communist revolutions next door with a blend of majesty and a common touch.
His son, the crown prince, does not enjoy the same respect in Thailand as his father. He is said to have the reputation of a jet-setting playboy, having been married and divorced three times and having spent most of his life outside the kingdom in Germany.