Editor in Thailand faces charges after sharing student’s drawing of kings wearing face masks

‘I shared this picture thinking it was pertinent and powerful’

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 April, 2018, 4:26pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 April, 2018, 4:35pm

An editor in Thailand faces possible criminal charges for sharing a student’s “disrespectful” picture of historic kings wearing face masks to highlight air pollution in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

The governor of Chiang Ma said on Sunday that he believed Pim Kemasingki, editor of the Chiang Mai Citylife magazine, had breached the Computer Crime Act by sharing the picture.

“It is up to the police to gather evidence,” Pawin Chamniprasart said.

In a letter to police, he wrote that the kings are worshipped and respected in Chiang Mai and “using the picture with the three kings wearing masks is disrespectful”.

Thailand’s cybercrime law, which criminalises defamation and obscenity, has been widely criticised by international rights groups for curtailing freedom of expression.

Pim, a Thai-British national, said the image of the three statues wearing masks had been shared on a Facebook page publicising a “Right to Breathe” anti-air pollution rally that had later been cancelled at the request of the governor.

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“I shared this picture thinking it was pertinent and powerful,” Pim said.

“For decades I’ve been promoting the city and loving it … so it’s quite unsettling that fighting for healthy air for my fellow citizens has turned into me besmirching the city.”

Recently, Thailand has suffered from some of its worst air pollution in years.

Achariya Ruangrattanapong, a lawyer for Pim, said he was confident that sharing the picture was not a violation of the cybercrime law.

“How can this be a computer crime if it involves a picture that a child drew?” he said.

Pawin said he was not seeking charges of royal insult against Pim. Under Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté law, those found guilty of insulting the monarchy face 15 years in prison.