Thai Facebook users warned over anti-monarchy 'Likes'

Thailand Facebook users are being warned about 'liking' anti-monarchy groups on Facebook-- or face 3 to 15 years in jail under the Computer Crimes Act.

Only days after 61-year-old Amphon Tanganoppaku was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sending anti-monarchy texts, Thai users of the world's largest social network have been warned to be careful what they 'like'.

In Thailand, the monarchy are protected by lése-majesté laws that prohibit citizens for making remarks deemed offensive to them.

The 2007 Constitution of Thailand contains the clause that: "The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action".

The constitution posits that anyone deemed guilty of offenses under this law can be prosecuted for 3 to 15 years in jail. Unfortunately this crime now extends to something as seemingly innocuous as 'liking' a comment on Facebook.

(Source: Flickr, CC)

Thailand's information technology minister Anudith Nakornthap warned users who may have expressed support for anti-monarchy groups on Facebook, to delete all of their reactions and posts to avoid prosecution.

He explained to the Bangkok Post that: "If they don't delete them, they can end up violating the Computer Crime Act for indirectly distributing inappropriate content".

The number of cases prosecuted under the lése-majesté laws have nearly doubled in the past few years, with 18 prosecutions in 2005, compared to 36 cases in 2010.

On top of warning users to delete their posts and police their actions, Narkonthap has sought help from Facebook itself in deleting around 10,000 pages of allegedly 'offensive' content. There spattering of 'pro-' monarchy pages have since sprouted up in the wake of this warning.

The lése-majesté laws are taken very seriously in Thailand, but the high profile case of American citizen Joe Gordon, originally born Lerpong Wichaikhammat, and programmer Surapak Puchaiseng have shown the results of online content deemed guilty of insulting of the monarchy.

Gordon was arrested in part for posting a link to an anti-monarchy book on his blog, and Puchaiseng for insulting the Royal family on Facebook.

Although the laws have drawn criticism in the West for violating freedom of speech, it appears that scrutiny of Thai citizens is only increasing.

Considering how liberally we throw around 'likes' in the West, it seems incomprehensible that we could be arrested, prosecuted and tried for doing so. Though not directly comparable, it seems less far-fetched when inflammatory Facebook posts resulted in a series of arrests and lengthy prison sentences after the England riots during the summer.