The government of Thailand has demanded that Facebook remove all links and mentions to an embarrassing video which seems to depict their king, sporting an effeminate crop top which expose his tattoos, walking through a German shopping center.
The video was taken last year but has gained momentum in the past few weeks. As such, it has been widely shared on Facebook. The Thai government, which has been ruled by a military junta since a coup in 2014, has threatened to file a lawsuit against the social media giant if the video is not removed from the site. It is officially a crime in Thailand to insult the king and the royal family, and critics are concerned that the law will be expanded to limit all forms of political expression against the ruling party, starting with seemingly innocuous examples such as an embarrassing video.
Facebook has issued statements before which says that the company complies with censoring certain content if it is deemed to be in violation of local laws. It now may find itself in a bind, as the company has long asserted itself as a medium in favor of freedom of expression. It is possible that other authoritarian regimes may seize on an example like this to further restrict online discourse in their own countries.
King Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne only late last year, after his father had reigned as a universally popular figure for over 70 years. He has been dogged by rumors of his eccentric personal life, including a video which leaked showing Vajiralongkorn, then the crown prince, throwing a lavish birthday party for his pet poodle, Fufu. His third wife was also featured in the video wearing only a G-string.
But beyond the whispers of the King’s playboy lifestyle, many in Thailand do not believe he is ready or willing to fill the shoes of his father. According to the Worldwide Movement for Human Rights, 105 people have been arrested under the ‘leje-majeste’ laws for insulting the monarchy since 2014. Those found guilty can face up to 15 years in prison. Details of convictions are not shared publicly.
Featured image courtesy of news.com.au