Thailand is not renowned for its treatment of dogs. Source: Wikimedia
Thailand’s strict laws making it a crime to insult the royal family took a farcical turn on Monday when a factory worker was charged for being critical of the king’s dog. A Thai military court heard how Thanakorn Siripaiboon made a “sarcastic” internet post about the pet. He also faces separate charges of sedition and insulting the monarch.
He faces 37 years in prison for his posts in a bizarre twist in the military’s attempts to gag critics of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The precise insult about the canine was not divulged by the military, according to the man’s lawyer, Anon Numpa.
Anon said what was considered as lèse-majest or royal insults had expanded drastically in recent years. Last year, an academic was accused of insulting a king who died 400 years ago. The American ambassador offended the military in November for making a speech on the subject.
The law applies to anyone who specifically defames the king, the queen, the heir apparent or the regent but there is no mention of pets.
“I never imagined they would use the law for the royal dog,” he said. “It’s nonsense.”
King Bhumibol, 88, who is ailing in a Bangkok hospital, rescued the mongrel from an alley; in 2002 he wrote a best-selling book about her. The Thai media uses the respectful honorific “khun” to describe the dog, similar to ma’am.
The book describes Tongdaeng as a “respectful dog, with proper manners.” The book was interpreted as an allegory about the importance of deference and etiquette in changing times.
Tongdaeng “is humble and knows protocol,” the book’s preface says. “She would always sit lower than the king.”
There is relatively little discussion of the case on social media, presumably out of fear of similar legal action.
Bhumibol made a rare public appearance on Monday after failing to show up for nationwide celebrations marking his birthday earlier this month.
Thai television showed footage of the monarch, who turned 88 on December 5, swearing in dozens of judges at a reception room in a Bangkok hospital where he is receiving long-term care.
The king was last seen in public on September 1.
He has spent the past few months at Siriraj Hospite was treated for hydrocephalus, a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain.
The condition of the king, the world’s longest serving monarch, cannot be discussed openly in the kingdom.