Thailand opens investigation into BBC for alleged insult of new king

Police visit BBCs Bangkok office, taking staffs Yakult milk drink, after profile detailing King Maha Vajiralongkorns personal life is blocked online

Thailand has opened an investigation into the BBCs local language service for alleged defamation and blocked access to an online profile of the countrys new king, less than a week after he succeeded to the throne.

The biography was published on Friday by BBC Thai a day after King Maha Vajiralongkorn accepted the title following the death of his father, Bhumibol Adulyadej, on 13 October.

Thailand’s lse-majest laws

General Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy prime minister and minister of defence, said that authorities were investigating whether the article breached the countrys strict lse-majest (wounded majesty) laws.

Around 10 police officers visited the BBC office on Tuesday but found it closed. They reportedly helped themselves to a delivery of Yakult milk drink left at the door before leaving. Members of the army arrived later to ask about the police visit.

The BBC did not provide a comment for this article.

Anyone who defames, insults or threatens a member of the Thai royal family can face three to 15 years in jail on each charge. Under the law, the government is compelled to investigate any case raised by a member of the public.

The BBC profile explained how the new king was educated in Thailand, the UK and Australia, and flies his own Boeing 737 when travelling abroad.

It said questions were raised about his fitness to succeed to the throne when he was formally titled as heir in 1972, adding that he does not command the same level of respect his father built during seven decades on the throne.

When attempting to access the article in Thailand, a message appears from the ministry for digital economy and society, announcing that the website contains inappropriate information.

Following its publication in Thai, angry comments were posted on Facebook including physical threats and the location of the BBCs Bangkok office.

On Saturday, anti-government activist Jatupat Boonpattaraksa was arrested for sharing the article on his Facebook page. He was released on bail on Sunday.

The ruling junta, which took power in a military coup in 2014, positions itself as a defender of the monarchy and has sought to appease ultra-royalist factions by pursuing anyone deemed to have breached lse-majest.

Last year, military courts jailed two people under the law, one for 30 years and the other for 28, for posts on Facebook.

The coronation of the new monarch will be held some time after Bhumibols cremation next year.

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