Facebook has removed 178 posts deemed insulting to the Thai monarchy thus far in 2017, as part of their effort to comply with Thailand’s strict laws concerning “royal insult”.
But the military-backed government says there are an additional 131 posts that still need to come down. They have given the company until May 16 to remove 131 ‘anti-monarchy’ posts. If they do not cooperate, Thai officials say they will take the California-based company to court.
Thailand implements one of the harshest anti-Lese Majeste (Royal Insult) laws in the world. The government says the law is essential to preserving unity in the country, but human rights groups and legal scholars believe the law needs to be amended because it is overly broad and often abused by authorities.
According to the International Federation for Human Rights, 105 individuals have been arrested because of alleged Lese Majeste violations since the army took over in 2014. Before the 2014 coup, in which the army grabbed power and established the ruling junta, only six individuals were behind bars for insulting the monarchy.
Many of the arrested individuals were activists who have been criticising the army, which led human rights advocates to accuse the government of using the Lese Majeste law to silence dissent.
Thailand is a country in transition. It has a new king, a constitution drafted less than two years ago, and an army that has promised to restore civilian rule once electoral and political reforms have been implemented. In this time of transition, the government has been aggressive in restricting the work of media and arresting those who are campaigning for democratic reforms. Even those who simply ‘share’ and ‘like’ Facebook posts that are deemed disrespectful to the monarchy are criminally charged in the courts.