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Thailand to monitor Thais abroad for criticism of monarchy

A Thai student colors a portrait of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. For Thailand's royalists - and there are millions of them - King Bhumibol Adulyadej will probably long remain embedded as a potent, father-like figure who guided them through turbulent decades and espoused ideals of national harmony, labor on behalf of the poor and the virtues of an agrarian society vanishing in the wake of headlong modernization. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
October 18, 2016 - 8:13 AM

BANGKOK - Thailand's government said Tuesday it will monitor the social media activities of Thais abroad to see if they are posting insulting comments about the monarchy, which are punishable by stiff prison sentences, following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej last week.

Justice Minister Paiboon Kumchaya told reporters that his ministry is co-operating with police intelligence, the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Digital Economy to monitor social media comments on the monarchy by Thais abroad.

He acknowledged that the government will not be able to act against Thais who criticize the monarchy if they are outside Thai jurisdiction. But he urged Thais in the country not to distribute offending material that originates from abroad because that act would be considered illegal.

Thailand has a strict law against insulting the monarchy which the military government has used liberally in the last two years to jail people, despite international criticism and allegations it is used for political purposes.

On Sunday, a woman was arrested in the resort island of Phuket after residents alleged she had insulted the king. Police made her kneel before the king's portrait in public with hundreds of onlookers watching and jeering.

Asked about the case, Paiboon said "there's nothing better than social measures" to prevent the monarchy from being maligned. He did not elaborate, and it wasn't clear if he was supporting public shaming.

Bhumibol's death after a reign of 70 years has triggered an outpouring of grief from most Thais.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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