Man charged with royal defamation for Facebook comment

A 25-year-old man has been arrested and charged with royal defamation for posting a comment on Facebook about a photo taken from a movie theatre screening of the royal anthem.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reports that Chakorn Laion, 25, was arrested at home in Mukdahan on 9 December by officers from the Investigation Division of the Provincial Police Region 1, the Rattanathibet Police Station, the Bangpongpang Police Station, and the Dontan Police Station. He was arrested on a warrant issued by the Nonthaburi Provincial Court for royal defamation and for uploading into a computer system data which could affect national security, as stipulated under the Computer Crimes Act.

According to a temporary detention request filed by the inquiry officer, Chakorn was charged for commenting on a Facebook post that featured a photo taken in a movie theatre of the Royal Anthem music video. The scene in the photo depicted King Vajiralongkorn and his son Prince Dipangkorn. 

The complaint against Chakorn was filed by Thitiwat Tanagaroon, a royalist who confronted pro-democracy protesters with a raised a portrait of the late King Bhumibol during a protest at Central Pinklao on 20 October 2020.  Thitiwat was later praised by the King while waiting with a crowd near the Grand Palace on 23 October 2020.

Thitiwat has previously filed royal defamation complaints against 2 other people, including Prasong Khotsongkhram, who was arrested on 8 July 2021 and was held in pre-trial detention for 27 days before being granted bail.

Chakorn was moved from Mukdahan to Nonthaburi, where he was taken for a temporary detention request.  During the hearing, the inquiry officer told the court that he should not be granted bail because the charges carry a high penalty and he was likely to flee. The court disagreed, granting bail using a security of 150,000 baht.  Bail was covered by the Will of the People Fund, which was established to help those being prosecuted for taking part in the pro-democracy movement.

TLHR noted that Chakorn’s arrest is another example of how the royal defamation law can be used to harass people who subscribe to different political beliefs, as the law allows anyone to file a complaint.  There have been previous cases in which complaints were filed based on social media posts at police stations far from where the accused live, requiring them to spend time and money travelling to police appointments and court hearings.

224 people have been charged with royal defamation in 242 cases since November 2020. Of these cases, 111 resulted from complaints filed by members of the public, who TLHR said are likely to be pro-monarchy activists. 127 out of the 242 cases also resulted from social media activities.

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