One factory worker in Thailand is facing up to 37 years in prison for insulting the country’s military rulers and making fun of the king’s dog. In Thailand, strict laws make it a crime to criticize, defame or insult members of the royal family. Each count of defamation can land a person in prison for up to 15 years.
Factory worker Thanakorn Siripaiboon was charged by a Thai military court with making a “sarcastic” internet post about the dog of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The Thai King originally rescued the dog, who was named Tongdaeng, from an alley.
Tongadaeng has been praised by the citizens of Thailand for her loyalty and obedience. In 2002, the king wrote and illustrated a book about the treasured pup. This year, an animated film about the dog is second in Thai box office sales.
The attorney for Thanakorn, Anon Numpa, has stated that the Thai military never identified the precise insult towards the animal. Numpa believes that applying the law to royal pets is ridiculous.
Numpa said, “I never imagined they would use the law for the royal dog. It’s nonsense.”
The topic is extremely sensitive in the country. In fact, the local Thai printer of the International New York Times refused to publish the story. Instead, there was a blank space where the story was supposed to appear. This represents the fourth time this year that the printer has refused to publish an article relating to the country.
Convictions over insulting Thai royals have greatly increased since the Royalist Party seized power from the elected government in May of 2014. One man was even sentenced to 30 years in prison for insulting the king on Facebook.
In addition to making sarcastic comments about the royal dog, Thanakorn was also charged with sharing allegations of corruption by the Thai military, specifically regarding their construction of a park monument.
Meanwhile, United States ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies is also being investigated for comments he made criticizing Thai law. During his speech, Davies also offered praise towards King Bhumibol. The Thai police have made it clear that Davies has diplomatic immunity.