As the government began a hunt for lese majeste fugitives abroad, national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda said yesterday insulting the monarchy would not be tolerated and outbound air tickets were offered to people who wanted to commit such crimes.
"I don't know why people want to insult the monarchy. How can a human being think about that and do such a thing during this time of grieving? If they don't want to live in Thailand, they should go abroad," he told reporters.
"For the sake of the nation's [security], I am willing to go into debt, owing money to pay for air tickets for those people."
The government has launched a campaign to hunt for lese majeste fugitives as well as to take steps to prevent people overseas from engaging in what it regards as insulting the monarchy.
Talking about the monarchy has been especially provocative since wide political divisions opened more than a decade ago, with royalists saying they believed their opponents wanted to discredit the monarchy and some members of the Royal Family for political gain.
Authorities have prosecuted many people on lese majeste charges while others have escaped prosecution by leaving the country.
The government has expressed concern that discussions about the monarchy following the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadejon on October 13 could get out of hand.
Many people overseas have posted criticism of and speculation about the institution of the monarchy on the Internet and via social media.
Police have charged more than 20 people for insulting the monarchy since the passing of the King, alleging improper or defamatory posts on social media. Many people's social media feeds are under close surveillance.
Chakthip said police had notified Interpol to take legal action against people who insulted the monarchy from overseas, but he declined to give further details.
On behalf of the Justice Ministry, the Foreign Ministry has sent formal requests to seven countries requesting the extradition of 19 fugitives accused of lese majeste charges.
Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said yesterday that seven or eight countries had informed him that they were willing to co-operate to control the movement of lese majeste fugitives within their jurisdiction although extradition would be difficult due to legal complications.
"I received positive signs from foreign embassies that they understand our situation and the root cause of the problems as well as the feelings of Thai people," he said. "If we obtain good co-operation from them, I believe the problems will be eased.
"It would be difficult to bring all individuals to go through attitude adjustment programmes," he said.
The minister added that only 10 people were actively spreading defamatory messages about the monarchy but the content spread quickly on social media.
"If the public does not pay attention, such messages will be phased out," he said.