BANGKOK — Thai authorities are seeking to extradite critics of the Thai monarchy living abroad for legal prosecution in Thailand, Prime Minister and junta chairman Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said today.
"We are following the procedures," Gen. Prayuth said at a press conference. “You can't expect me to have all of them arrested right now."
He also said that some of the "wanted" critics told security officers they would stop commenting on the monarchy, only to later flee abroad and continue with their "libelous" remarks.
"We are monitoring them," Gen. Prayuth continued. "We have many agencies involved in this, the ICT [Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology], the army, the Ministry of Defence. We have many."
Criticising the Royal Family is punishable by up to 15 years in prison under Section 112 of Thailand's Criminal Code, a law known as "lese majeste." Although the letter of the law only bans criticism of the King, Queen, Regent, and Heir-Apparent, in practice it is used to punish any discussion of the monarchy.
However, public criticism of the monarchy has risen in Thailand in recent years, largely due to the proliferation of Internet access and social media.
Although the Thai government says it has shut down more than "1,200 websites" deemed critical of the monarchy since the coup, there are still a number of web pages and Youtube accounts run by anti-monarchy activists living in foreign countries, such as Chatwadee Rose Amornpat, who lives in the UK and was chargedwith lese majeste by her own father earlier this year.
In June, Thai authorities revoked the passports of three Thais living abroad charged with lese majeste, including Chatwadee.
At the press conference today, Gen. Prayuth singled out a prominent critic of the monarchy, former Thammasat University professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who fled Thailand shortly after the military staged a coup on 22 May 2014. Somsak is believed to be living in exile in France.
"For example, Mr. Somsak, today he is still writing about the monarchy," Gen. Prayuth said today of the historian, who frequently posts his analyses of the Thai monarchy on his Facebook. "All of you have seen that. He writes about this, he writes about that, he just keeps writing."
"He's a teacher, how could he do this?" Gen. Prayuth fumed. "He can't teach people to break the law. He's supposed to teach people to respect the law. I don't know what will happen in the future, but as for today, I cannot allow this to happen."
Gen. Prayuth, a hardline royalist, has vowed to crackdown on anti-monarchy networks since he seized power on 22 May 2014. He has also granted military courts – which do not permit appeals – jurisdiction over lese majeste cases.
Responding to Gen. Prayuth's remarks, Somsak, 56, wrote on his Facebook that he felt "fin" – Thai slang for "exceedingly satisfied" – to have been mentioned by the junta leader.
"Come on, how can I not feel so fin?" Somsak wrote in a post. "It's been less than a month since I returned to writing [on Facebook], but Our Dear Leader has noticed me already."
For comments, or corrections to this article please contact: [email protected]