Thai minister urges 'social sanctions' for royal critics

PHOTO: AFP

Bangkok - Thais should "socially sanction" those accused of defaming the monarchy following the death of King Bhumibol, the junta's justice minister said Tuesday, as he vowed to hunt down critics both at home and overseas.

The death of the world's longest reigning monarch on Thursday has left the nation bereft of its key pillar of unity and seen mass outpourings of grief from black-clad Thais.

But it has also unleashed ultra-monarchist forces, including mobs and online crusaders scouring the web bent on punishing anyone perceived to have insulted the monarchy.

"There is no better way to punish these people than to socially sanction them," justice minister Paiboon Koomchaya told reporters on Tuesday, as he vowed to "pursue those people who violate the law".

Large crowds gather as convoy transports Thai king's body to Grand Palace

  • Thailand's Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn looks out from a van as a motorcade transports the body of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej from the Bangkok hospital to the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
  • The procession of vehicles moves through the city as massive crowds line the streets.
  • People display portraits of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thai baht notes as they wait on the roadside.
  • People offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • People offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • People offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • People offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • People offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • People offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • People offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • People offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • People offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • People offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • People queue to pay respects to the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok on October 14, 2016. Bhumibol, the world's longest-reigning monarch, passed away at 88 on October 13 after years of ill health, removing a stabilising father figure from a country where political tensions remain raw two years after a military coup.
  • Mourners arrive to the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.
  • Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrives at the Grand Palace to offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha arrives to pay respects to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok on October 14, 2016. Bhumibol, the world's longest-reigning monarch, passed away at 88 on October 13 after years of ill health, removing a stabilising father figure from a country where political tensions remain raw two years after a military coup.
  • Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (L) and his wife Naraporn (R) pay respect after offering condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • Thai Royal guards march as mourners line up to enter the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • Thai Royal guards march as mourners line up to enter the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • Thai Royal guards march as mourners line up to enter the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • Thai Royal guards march as mourners line up to enter the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • Thai Royal guards march as mourners line up to enter the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • People stand in lines to offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • People stand in lines to offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • Mourners line up to enter the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.
  • Mourners line up to enter the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.
  • A woman weeps as she stands in line with others to offer condolences for Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok
  • A woman holds a garland as she stands in line with others to offer condolences for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • Mourners line up to enter to the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.
  • Mourners line up to enter to the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.
  • Mourners line up to enter to the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.
  • Mourners line up to enter to the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.
  • Mourners line up to enter to the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.
  • A man holds a photo of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as he waits in a queue to pay his respects at the Grand Palace in Bangkok on October 14, 2016. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, long a unifying figure in politically fractious Thailand, died on October 13 and uncertainty over the succession quickly arose as his crown prince reportedly sought a delay in taking over.
  • A man holds a photo of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as he waits in a queue to pay his respects at the Grand Palace in Bangkok on October 14, 2016. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, long a unifying figure in politically fractious Thailand, died on October 13 and uncertainty over the succession quickly arose as his crown prince reportedly sought a delay in taking over.
  • A man holds a photo of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as he waits in a queue to pay his respects at the Grand Palace in Bangkok on October 14, 2016. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, long a unifying figure in politically fractious Thailand, died on October 13 and uncertainty over the succession quickly arose as his crown prince reportedly sought a delay in taking over.
  • Mourners line up to enter the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.
  • A woman holds an image of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as she waits in a queue to pay her respects at the Grand Palace in Bangkok on October 14, 2016. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, long a unifying figure in politically fractious Thailand, died on October 13 and uncertainty over the succession quickly arose as his crown prince reportedly sought a delay in taking over.
  • Mourners walk to the Grand Palace to wait for the hearse, following the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.
  • Mourners walk to the Grand Palace to wait for the hearse, following the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.
  • People mourning for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej wait along a procession route near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.
  • A Buddhist monk joins mourners at the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand, October 14, 2016.
  • People wait in line to pay their respects to Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok on October 14, 2016. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, long a unifying figure in politically fractious Thailand, died on October 13 and uncertainty over the succession quickly arose as his crown prince reportedly sought a delay in taking over.
  • Mourners sit in a coffee shop in front of the Grand Palace decorated with paintings of Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.
  • People mourning for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej wait along a procession route near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.
  • Crowd near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Oct 14, 2016.
  • Mourners arrive to the Grand Palace to pay respect to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thailand October 14, 2016.

His message comes amid a growing number of cases of vigilantism meted out by royalist Thais on people accused of having insulted the monarchy.

On Sunday a woman on Samui island was forced by police to kneel below a portrait of King Bhumibol in front of a baying mob after she allegedly posted an insulting comment about the monarchy on Facebook.

She was later charged with lese majeste.

Similar mobs formed on the southern island of Phuket and in nearby Phang Nga province sparked by alleged comments.

Others on social media have publicly berated those deemed not to be sufficiently mourning or failing to wear black clothes.

The latter - dubbed "black shaming" - has been criticised by the junta who say poorer Thais may not be able to afford a new wardrobe of black clothing and that people mourn in different ways.

Thailand's monarchy is protected by a draconian lese majeste law that outlaws criticism with punishments of up to 15-years in jail for each insult uttered.

Prosecutions have surged under the military, who seized power two years ago, with record breaking sentences handed down in some cases.

That has made detailed discussion or debate about the monarchy's role - and its future after Bhumibol's 70-year reign - all but impossible.

Media inside Thailand, both local and foreign, must heavily self-censor.

While debate on the monarchy has been shut down inside Thailand for years, authorities struggle to censor critics or media based overseas.

But Paiboon said the junta would renew extradition requests for Thais abroad - something that is unlikely to carry traction with foreign governments in those countries where lese majeste is not a crime.

"It's difficult to bring them to prosecution in Thailand," Paiboon said. "But we must do it to stop their movement and reproduction, we will do our best."

A look back at Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej's life

  • King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the world's longest-reigning monarch. His health has been fragile and he has not appeared in public for months.
  • King Ananda Mahidol (pictured here), 20, is found dead in his palace bedroom in Bangkok with a single gunshot wound in the head from a Colt .45 he kept by his bedside. His death shocks the nation. Within hours, his brother Bhumibol Adulyadej, 18, is named the new king. He returns to Switzerland to continue his studies while an uncle acts as regent. The case is later ruled as murder, and two royal servants and a personal secretary of the former king are convicted and executed for plotting to assassinate him.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej being carried by a cortege during the coronation ceremony in Thailand. Taken on May 5, 1950.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit posing with their first child Princess Ubol Ratana in April 1951.
  • (on left) Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej receiving flowers from a villager.
  • (on right) Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit posing with their first two children Princess Ubol Ratana and Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn in 1955.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej (centre) on the throne at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej taking a picture during his trip to Cambodia. Taken on July 7, 1980
  • Japanese Emperor Akihito (second from right) and Empress Michiko (second from left) posing with Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej (right) and Queen Sirikit at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Taken on Sept 25, 1991.
  • King Bhumibol Adulyadej receiving garlands from villagers. Photo made available by the Thai Royal Bureau on June 5, 2006.
  • (From left) Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Sirikit appearing at a balcony of Anantasamakom Throne Hall in Bangkok to mark the King's birthday. Taken on Dec 5, 1999.
  • Tennis player Paradorn Srichaphan (left) being granted a royal audience with Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Chitralada Palace in Bangkok.
  • French President Jacques Chirac (right) speaking to Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the start of a gala dinner at the Royal Palace in Bangkok. Taken on Feb 17, 2006.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his wife Queen Sirikit (left) reviewing the guard of honour during the military parade to celebrate his 81st birthday in Bangkok, Thailand. Taken on Dec 2, 2008.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as he sits on a wheelchair during an appearance at a hospital in Bangkok on Oct 23, 2009.
  • Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting King Bhumibol at his palace in Hua Hin in 2009.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej waving to well-wishers after the royal ceremony for his 83rd birthday in Bangkok. Taken on Dec 5, 2010.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej (centre) sitting in a wheelchair as he departs Siriraj hospital to grant an audience on his 85th birthday celebrations in Bangkok, Thailand on Dec 5, 2012.
  • Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej (centre), Queen Sirikit (second from right) and Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn (right) visiting Thung Makham. Taken on May 25, 2012.
  • King Bhumibol has been on the throne since 1946. A well-wisher was among those who prayed for his well-being in Bangkok on Oct 10, 2016.
  • On Oct 10, 2016, well-wishers pray in front of a picture of King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok where he is usually treated when ill.
  • A well-wisher at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, where the king is treated when his health condition is serious.
  • Images of King Bhumibol were held during a parade at a festival in Narathiwat on Sep 17, 2016.
  • King Bhumibol has been in hospital since the end of May and has received treatment for various ailments.
  • Well-wishers held up portraits of King Bhumibol at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok on Oct 10, 2016.
  • The king was last seen in public on Jan 11, 2016, when he left hospital to visit his Bangkok palace for a few hours.
  • The king is widely adored by many Thais, who revere him as a semi-divine figure.
  • This exquisite cigarette box was a gift from King Bhumibol to Singapore's President S R Nathan in 2005. It is displayed at the Istana Heritage Gallery.
  • King Bhumibol welcoming President S R Nathan in his state visit in 2005.
  • Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew ande Mrs Lee meeting King Bhumibol at his palace in Bangkok in 1998.
  • The king has been treated for various ailments during a year-long hospitalisation in the Thai capital.
  • Many Thais see the king as a pillar of stability in a country which has seen bouts of political unrest over the past decade following the downfall of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
  • Women offer prayers for Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Siriraj Hospital, where the king is being treated, in Bangkok on October 11, 2016.
  • Women offer prayers for Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Siriraj Hospital, where the king is being treated, in Bangkok on October 11, 2016.
  • Women hold portraits of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as they pray for his health at Siriraj Hospital, where the king is being treated, in Bangkok on October 11, 2016.
  • Thai citizens started wearing pink en masse as soon as word spread that the colour has "auspicious power" for their beloved King's good health.
  • Many people wearing pink headed to the Siriraj Hospital to write get-well messages and pray for His Majesty to recover.
  • Many people wearing pink headed to the Siriraj Hospital to write get-well messages and pray for His Majesty to recover.
  • Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha along with his wife, plus military leaders, members of the National Council for Peace and Order, and Cabinet ministers, left well-wishes for the monarch at Sala Sahathai Samakhom in the Grand Palace, while wearing pink and yellow.
  • Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha along with his wife, plus military leaders, members of the National Council for Peace and Order, and Cabinet ministers, left well-wishes for the monarch at Sala Sahathai Samakhom in the Grand Palace, while wearing pink and yellow.
  • Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha along with his wife, plus military leaders, members of the National Council for Peace and Order, and Cabinet ministers, left well-wishes for the monarch at Sala Sahathai Samakhom in the Grand Palace, while wearing pink and yellow.

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