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BBC Thailand faces government probe after publishing profile of new king

In Thailand, offending the reigning monarch is against the law and is punishable by imprisonment. It’s known under the french term lèse-majesté, and is a serious crime where offenders can spend up to fifteen years in jail.

The former monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej died on 13 October at the age of 88. He spent seventy years on the Thai throne. His son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun was proclaimed King on 1 December. Subsequently, the BBC Thai, the BBCs Thai Language service published a profile of the new King, which offended some in Thailand. They said they found it insulting to the new monarch. It was widely shared throughout social media before being blocked on Tuesday by The Thai Ministry of Digital Defense.

As of the publication of this post, the profile on the Thai BBC site still says: “inappropriate content”. Since the death of the former Thai King, coverage by the BBC of his death and has been blocked. When soldiers and plain-clothed police officers went to the BBC Offices in Bangkok on Tuesday. According to witnesses, no one was there and the officials soon left.

Where lèse-majesté is concerned, anyone can file a complaint which must be investigated: “Authorities have to pursue the matter. It is their duty to pursue anything that is against the law,” Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told The Express.

However, international rights groups oppose this law because it leaves too much room for interpretation and its penelities are too extreme. No complaint has yet to be filed against the BBC.

The BBC has yet to comment on the profile, and no charges have been filed.

Nevertheless, the profile will be investigated: “Then we’ll proceed according to the law,” senior police official Chayapon Chatchaidej told reporters.

The Thai government isn’t’ opposed to arresting and imprisoning those who protest their militant government. Recently, a man was arrested but soon released after making bail.

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