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Thai man charged for insulting king’s dog

Thai man charged for insulting king’s dogIn a case brought in a Thai military court, a factory worker, Thanakorn Siripaiboon, was charged with making a “sarcastic” Internet post related to the king’s pet. He also faces separate charges of sedition and insulting the king.

Mr. Thanakorn could face a total of 37 years in prison.

The precise insult toward the royal dog was not divulged by the military, suspect’s lawyer, Anon Numpa told media.

The boundaries of what has been considered as royal insults had expanded drastically in recent years. Last year, a prominent scholar was accused of insulting a king who died 400 years ago. The list of people who have been investigated now includes the American ambassador to Thailand.

The law applies to anyone who specifically defames the king, the queen, the heir apparent or the regent, but Mr. Anon said he was incredulous that it could be broadened to include a household pet.

The next legal step, the lawyer said, would be his client’s indictment, but he added that no time frame had been set by the authorities.

Mr. Thanakorn was arrested at his home in a Bangkok suburb last week and had not been seen until his arraignment on Monday. Among other charges, he is accused of sharing on Facebook allegations of corruption in the military’s construction of a monument to previous kings.

The royal dog in question is Tongdaeng, or Copper, who is widely loved in Thailand.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88, rescued the mongrel from an alley; in 2002 he wrote a best-selling book about her. The Thai news media use the polite honorific “khun” to describe the dog, a term that roughly translates to ma’am.

The book describes Tongdaeng as a “respectful dog, with proper manners.” The king appeared to intend it as an allegory about the importance of respect and etiquette in changing times.

Despite the unusual nature of the charges against Mr. Thanakorn, there was relatively little discussion about the case on Monday on social media, perhaps because of fears that those who highlighted it might also face charges.

In the case of the American ambassador, Glyn T. Davies, the Thai police said last week that he was under investigation after he gave a speech to foreign correspondents praising the king but criticizing the “lengthy and unprecedented prison sentences” handed down by Thai military courts on lèse-majesté charges.

The Thai military seized power in a coup last year and has relentlessly cracked down on challenges to its power, detaining journalists, academics, politicians and students for “attitude adjustment” sessions at military camps. Dissidents are made to sign pledges that allow for financial penalties if they take part in “political activity.”

Criticism by human rights groups and United Nations bodies has been shrugged off by the military government.

In August, a spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights cited the increase in convictions for insulting the king and the increasingly long prison sentences for the charges, reaching several decades.

“We are appalled by the shockingly disproportionate prison terms,” she said.

Via: New York Times
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