Arrests greet new Thai king

His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun. Source: YouTube

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has become Thailand’s new king after accepting an invitation from parliament to succeed his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October. It was followed by the arrest of activists. 

The 64-year-old, entitled “His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun”, assumed the throne 50 days after the death of his father, who reigned for seven decades.

Thai police arrested an activist for defaming the monarchy in the first case of lèse-majesté brought under the new king.

Police Colonel Jaturon Trakulpan said Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, an anti-junta campaigner, was arrested and charged under Article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code for insulting the royal family. Last year it was used to prosecute a builder who allegedly ridiculed the king’s late dog.

“We caught him at a temple,” Jaturon explained.

iLaw, a Bangkok-based legal group, said the number of cases had increased since King Bhumibol’s death.

Article 112 says anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” faces up to 15 years in jail.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a rights group representing Jatupat, tweeted that he was charged for sharing a link on Facebook to a BBC Thai-language profile of the new king.

Anon Chawalawan of iLaw said: “This post was shared many times. We question why he was singled out. It might be because he has a history of staging anti-junta protests.”

Last year, a pair received record prison sentences of 25 and 30 years for Facebook posts that were deemed to be insulting to the royal family.

The prince has not spoken publicly since his father’s death and the military government has made all the announcements about the coronation.

Vajiralongkorn did not ascend to the throne following his father’s death as is traditional, instead requesting time to mourn.

The crown prince had arrived for the ceremony from Germany, where he has a home.

News about the royal succession and criticism about the new monarch have been muted.