The list of people facing allegations that they insulted Thailand’s royal family—a crime that carries up to 15 years in prison—is growing fast.
It includes a popular opposition figure, who this week questioned the process by which a company owned by the king was selected to produce Covid-19 vaccines, and a 16-year-old boy who, at a fashion show satirizing the king, wore a crop top revealing a reference to the monarch scrawled across his skin. The teenage protester declined to comment.
Since November, at least 54 people have faced criminal complaints under the lèse-majesté law that prohibits any perceived insult to the Thai monarchy, according to the legal aid group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. A number of them have been summoned by police, setting investigations in motion, the group said.
Most of them are protesters who have changed Thailand’s political landscape in recent months by defying long-held social taboos and openly questioning the crown’s role and influence. The palace has traditionally held an almost sacred status in Thai society. But many in the new protest movement see the crown as part of the royalist-military elite that, they say, is holding back democratic progress in their country rocked by frequent coups and political turmoil.