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Thailand adds two new holidays in honour of new King

On Tuesday, the day before banning its citizens from communicating with three outspoken critics of the monarchy, the Thai government created two new national holidays to celebrate the reign of King Rama X. The interim cabinet added them to the calendar.

The first holiday is to be celebrated on 28 July, which is King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday. The second national day is 13 October. This is the date in which the former king, his father, King Bhumibol died.

Thailand has gained a new holiday but lost another. The 5th of May was a day in which the people celebrated the coronation of King Bhumibol. This will no longer be a national holiday.

On the heels of adding these two days of celebration, Wednesday saw Thailand ban its citizens from communicating with three outspoken individuals who are well-known for their open criticism of the monarchy and the Thai Royal Family.

The order came on Wednesday from Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society. Citizens are liable for prosecution if they contact them or share their social media posts. Contact is not permitted, either directly or indirectly. The three prolific individuals are historian-in-exile Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who fled Thailand for France in May 2014 after the military took over; academic-in-exile Pavin Chachavalpongpun who lives and teaches in Japan; and former reporter Andrew MacGregor Marshall who published a book about the Thai Monarchy.

Thailand is well-known for regulating its people and the press in their coverage of the Thai Monarchy; anyone who openly criticises the monarchy or member of the royal family can be charged with lèse-majesté. There, they can face a sentence of up to 15 years behind bars. Since the military coup in 2014, those charged with lèse-majesté have jumped significantly.

The statement reads, in part: “Members of the public are asked to refrain from following, contacting, spreading or engaging in any activity that results in spreading content and information of the persons mentioned in this announcement on the internet system, social media; either directly or indirectly.”

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