BANGKOK — Police say they have arrested a 25-year-old Thai musician who allegedly forged a statement that purported to be issued by His Majesty the King on Monday night.
According to Pol.Lt.Gen. Prawut Thawornsiri, spokesperson of the Royal Thai Police, the man has been charged with lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) and violating the Computer Crime Act, which criminalizes spreading false information using a computer system.
Pol.Lt.Gen. Prawut did not explain how police tracked down the suspect, who was reportedly living in Phetchabun province. Yesterday, Pol.Lt.Gen. Prawut said he suspected that whoever was behind the fake document was residing in a foreign country.
The suspect has been sent to an army camp in Bangkok for interrogation.
The forged palace statement began circulating on the internet at 9 pm on 2 February. The notice said that King Bhumibol, 87, had decided to appoint a Regent to act on his behalf. Due to strict laws that criminalize any remarks deemed critical of the monarchy, Khaosod English is withholding other details of the document’ contents.
The document was widely shared on social media, and reproduced on the website of a royalist newspaper, ASTV Manager. An hour after the document began circulating online, a spokesperson for Thailand’s military government announced that the order was forged. ASTV Manager then pulled the statement and published an apology.
Falsifying a statement that purports to be issued by the Royal Palace is a radical and unprecedented act in Thailand, where the king is widely revered as a demi-god. Under Thailand's lese majeste law, insulting the monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Quoting offensive remarks made by others is outlawed as well.
His Majesty the King is currently residing at Sirirraj Hospital in Bangkok for treatment of several illnesses. His frail health has been a cause of anxiety for many Thais.
CORRECTION: The original article mistakenly said the suspect was from Phetchaburi province. Police say he is from Phetchabun.