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Thai activist is charged over inappropriate post on royals

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Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun. The use of the tougher royal insult law declined after he ascended the throne. Xinhua

BANGKOK (AFP) – A Thai pro-democracy activist has been charged over an “inappropriate” social media post, police said on Tuesday, as authorities use a tough cyberlaw against perceived critics of the powerful monarchy.

Police arrested 25-year-old Kan Pongprapapan late on Monday and charged him with violating the Computer Crimes Act after a Facebook post touching on the turbulent lives of world-famous royal families.

The charge carries up to five years in jail.

Kan, who was later released on bail, did not mention Thailand’s ultra-wealthy monarchy, which is shielded from criticism by one of the harshest royal defamation laws in the world.

The law heavily restricts reporting on cases involving the monarchy inside a country where all media must self-censor when discussing the unassailable institution.

“He [Kan)] was arrested at his home on Monday night,” Thailand’s cybercrime police said in a statement, adding that the message “spurred hatred”.

It warned others could also be prosecuted for sharing similar content.

The statement also mentioned an “inappropriate hashtag”.

It was not clear if it was referring to a controversial hashtag about royal motorcades on Bangkok’s traffic-clogged streets that pinballed around Twitter in recent days.

Kan’s lawyer Winyat Chatmontri said his client had “no intention of talking about the Thai monarchy” in his Facebook post.

A cabinet minister covering technology over the weekend warned that the government would pursue an anti-monarchy “network” using computer crimes legislation.

Analysts say use of the tougher royal insult law – which carries up to 15 years in jail – has declined under King Maha Vajiralongkorn, crowned in May following the 2016 death of his long-reigning father Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Critics say fresh attempts to crack down on scrutiny of the royal family are aimed at creating a climate of fear as an arch-royalist government steers a transition from junta rule.

Thailand’s monarchy is one of the wealthiest in the world, with interests in real estate, construction and banking.

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