BANGKOK — A woman said a stranger assaulted her and threatened legal action after she failed to stand up for the royal anthem played before a movie.
In several Facebook posts published starting Friday, the woman, who identified herself as Alice Lynn, explained her wounded legs caused her to sit through the anthem during a visit to the cinema on Thursday, 8 May.
Alice’s failure to stand for the royal anthem, which is typically played before movies and music performances, prompted a man in the row behind her to demand an explanation.
“He asked ‘Are you not Thai?’. So I smiled and told him that my legs were in pain,” Alice wrote. “And then he went on ranting, ‘Do you know people get arrested for not standing up and paying respect?’. My brain couldn’t catch up. I was getting confused but I replied ‘Yes. It’s alright. I have my reasons. My legs hurt.’”
Alice said she sat through the movie without any further incident, until she ran into the man in front of a restroom at about midnight after the film had ended. Though Alice insisted that she has difficulty walking, the man allegedly taunted her for not using her legs earlier. The two then broke out into an argument.
According to Alice, the man pulled her arm and shouted that he was taking her to a police station for her disrespect toward the monarchy. He also phoned the police to report her actions but she eventually managed to get away.
Alice said the confrontation took place at an unidentified Major Cineplex cinema, which she visited for an 8.30pm screening of Detective Pikachu.
Alice’s claims cannot be independently verified. She did not respond to messages of inquiry as of publication time.
The alleged incidents drew much attention from social media, with many expressing shock and siding with Alice.
“Society will be better if we don’t rush to judgment,” Jaytiss Chayutpong wrote in a status.
“What the fuck is this? I’m so confused when I read it. What really happened? Detective Pikachu, tell me!” Somruthai Danlammachak wrote.
But some people also chided Alice for failing to stand briefly and pay respect.
“The reasons are too weak,” Sasiwan Sirikamolrung commented. “She had leg pains yet she could walk. What’s the big deal in standing for several minutes? If her legs hurt then she should have stayed home instead of limping to the cinema.”
Refusal to stand when the royal anthem plays used to be punishable by 100 baht in fine under a 1943 law, which was repealed in 2010 and no longer in effect. But such action is still typically seen as disrespecting the monarchy – a severe taboo in Thailand.
Any action deemed negative toward the monarchy is punishable by 15 years in prison under the lese majeste law, but there is no clear consensus on whether the law covers a failure to stand for the royal anthem.
In 1978, the Supreme Court sentenced a man to two years in prison under lese majeste for shouting “What the hell is this song?” when the anthem played at an anti-Communist rally. But the court acquitted another man accused of not standing up for the anthem in 2008, citing his mental condition.
A pro-democracy activist was also charged with lese majeste in 2007 for refusing to stand up for the anthem, but the prosecutors eventually dropped the charge.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated that refusal to stand for the Royal Anthem is punishable by a fine of 100 baht. In fact, the offense is no longer part of the law.