As Thailand waits for its new king to take the throne, a shift toward authoritarianism in the country is gathering speed.

The Buddhist kingdom, America’s oldest Asian ally, was already a conservative-minded place, with periodic military coups that were later given royal consent.

But since the Oct. 13 death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej after 70 years on the throne, junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power two years ago, has stepped up efforts to reinforce the army’s political and moral clout.

The military government’s crackdown on anyone violating strict laws against criticizing or insulting the monarchy has accelerated. National police chief Chaktip Chaijinda said Wednesday that authorities were pursuing at least 20 new cases of lèse-majesté, which carries a prison term of up to 15 years.

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Image courtesy of Reuters