Sun, Dec 13, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Thai military holds critic over Facebook ‘like’

AFP, BANGKOK

A Thai man who “liked” a doctored photo of the country’s king on Facebook is being held incommunicado at a military base, the ruling junta said yesterday, as rights groups warned he risked becoming another victim of “enforced disappearance.”

Thanakorn Siripaiboon, 27, was arrested earlier this week and charged with sedition, lese majeste and computer crimes for clicking “like” on a photo of the king and sharing it, plus an infographic on a corruption scandal, with about 600 friends.

“He is under military custody,” junta legal officer Colonel Burin Thongprapai said, adding that he would be remanded at a military court tomorrow.

“He is well and in good condition,” he said.

Under Thai law, anyone convicted of insulting the revered 88-year-old Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the queen, heir or regent, can face up to 15 years in jail on each count.

Prosecutions have increased noticeably since the army, which considers itself as the champion of the monarchy, grabbed power last year.

In the past two months, at least two people — including the celebrity fortune teller of the crown prince — have died in custody after being charged with lese majeste following investigations shrouded in secrecy.

Rights groups say the use of secret military detention — long employed in Thailand’s insurgency-hit south — has “now become a new standard nationwide,” Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk said.

“There is nothing at all to guarantee the safety of those held incommunicado in military detention .... without access to their families and lawyers, and interrogated by soldiers without safeguards against mistreatment,” he said.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, who are providing legal assistance to Tanakorn and his family, said in a statement that they had “no idea” where Thanakorn was being held.

The lawyers said they assumed he “has become a victim of enforced disappearance.”

Ultraroyalist junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha appointed himself the country’s prime minister after seizing power last year in a coup that toppled the democratically-elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra following months of political chaos and street protests.

Prayut said his coup was needed to restore order to the politically-turbulent nation, while critics say it was another move orchestrated by the country’s elite to grab power as concerns mount over the kingdom’s future as the king’s reign enters its twilight years.

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