BANGKOK — The 25-year-old arrested in connection with a forged royal statement was one of the first people to forward the document on social media, police say.
The suspect, Krit Bootdeecheen, was arrested at his home in Phetchabun province yesterday. Police say he was "among the first" to share a fake royal statement that purported to be issued by His Majesty the King. The document, which began circulating on social media on the night of 2 February, claimed that King Bhumibol had appointed a Regent to act on his behalf. Within an hour, the Thai government announced that the document was forged.
Pol.Lt.Gen. Prawut Thawornsiri, spokesperson of the Royal Thai Police, said yesterday that he could not comment on how the authorities tracked Krit down, but insisted that the 25-year-old was one of the first people to post the fake statement on social media.
"The text first appeared at 9:33 pm on 2 February. It was posted by Krit a very short time later," Pol.Lt.Gen. Prawut told reporters."We believe Krit is the second or third person who published the text, after the producer of the document. We are tracking down that person. I believe that individual is still Thailand."
He added, "Based on our current information, the person [who produced the document] is part of the UDD movement."
Krit, 25, is currently facing charges of lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) and violating Computer Crimes Act, which criminalizes using a computer to spread false information.
Jatupon Prompan, a top UDD leader, confirmed that Krit is a member of the organization and said he has already dispatched a lawyer to assist Krit, who is currently being held at a military camp in northern Bangkok.
Jatupon also stressed that Krit did not fabricate the document, but merely forwarded it to his friends after he saw it on social media.
"Krit is no different than the website of ASTV Manager," said Jatuporn, referring to the ultra-royalist newspaper that briefly published the forged statement on its website. "But they were treated so differently. Because Krit is a Redshirt, he is detained like a major criminal."
ASTV Manager eventually removed the document and published an apology on its wesbite. Police summoned the newspaper’s online editor for questioning but no charges have been filed.
Falsifying a statement that purports to be issued by the Royal Palace is a criminal act in Thailand, where defaming the monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in jail. Quoting offensive remarks made by others is also outlawed under Thailand’s lese majeste law, the strictest of its kind in the world.
His Majesty the King, who turned 87 in December 2014, 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.
The Redshirt movement is regularly accused of harboring anti-monarchy elements in its ranks. Redshirt leaders have repeatedly denied the allegations, though a number of radical Redshirt activists are known for their criticism of the monarchy.
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