A Facebook ‘like’ may land you in Thai jail

By Chi Liquicia

Thai-American citizen Joe Gordon arrives at court in Bangkok earlier this year, charged with insulting the monarchy (REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang)

The Thai government has given fair warning to Facebook users: be careful what you “like” or “share” or you might end up in jail.  

As it is, tens of thousands of websites and Facebook pages are already shut down, blocked or under scrutiny for content deemed offensive to the royal family. But the latest directive by the government’s communications minister involving a mere click on the computer takes the cake.

Instead of clicking on the like and share buttons, Minister Anudith Nakornthap urged Facebook users to press the “delete” button if they receive  messages defamatory to the revered institution, to avoid breaking the law, reports the Bangkok Post.

The directive came a day after a Bangkok court sentenced a 61-year-old man to 20 years in jail for sending four text messages last year which allegedly insulted the Queen.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and its head of state, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is the world’s longest reigning monarch. The country has a lese majeste law (against the crime of “violating majesty”) to protect the royal family from insults and threats. When an offense is committed on a computer, a person is also liable under the Computer Crimes Act. That sounds straightforward. But the problem is anyone can bring a charge of lese majeste so the law has been used largely as a tool by the government and by politicians against their enemies.

Human rights groups have long called for a restudy of the much-abused laws which have convicted a number of people across Thailand, including a few Westerners. The call for a review is being echoed by the Bangkok Post, one of two English language newspapers in the country. It says in an editorial that the use of law has been less than honest.

“The constant war on internet sites is futile and actually self-defeating… The [lese majeste] law cannot affect love of the monarch. It was His Majesty the King who declared six years ago in the most straightforward way that, ‘The King can do wrong,” and ”Actually, I must also be criticised.'”

Straight to the Source