BANGKOK — Police say they have arrested the man behind a famous internet alias who regularly published audio clips that criticized the Thai Royal Family, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The suspect, identified as Hasadin Uraipraiwan, 64, was arrested at a hotel in downtown Bangkok at around 8 pm last night, police say.
Hasadin is responsible for publishing a series of anti-royal audio clips on the internet under the pseudonym "Banpodj," said police spokesperson Pol.Lt.Gen. Prawut Thawornsiri.
According to the spokesperson, police and military officers raided Hasadin's house in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit area and confiscated significant evidence that links him to Banpodj.
Pol.Lt.Gen. Prawut also told reporters that Hasadin did not work alone.
"Banpodj is like a large production house that produced and sold anti-monarchy CDs. It receives an income of around 100,000 baht per month," the spokesperson said. "They work like a network. We will coordinate with the Anti-Money Laundering Office to trace their financial trail, freeze their assets, and prosecute other people who are involved or lend their support to the Banpodj network."
Pol.Lt.Gen. Prawut did not say how security forces tracked down Hasadin, but added that the suspect has been sent to an army camp in northern Bangkok for interrogation.
Two other alleged members of the Banpodj network were arrested on 7 February. All of the suspects have been charged with defaming the monarchy, a law known as lese majeste that carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
According to Pol.Lt.Gen. Prawut, Hasadin is also a Redshirt activist, but did not comment any further.
Banpodj is well known among radical Redshirts for rants that fiercely criticize the Thai monarchy. He is also notorious for espousing dizzying conspiracy theories involving the Thai Royal Family.
Although Thailand’s lese majeste law only specifically criminalizes defamation of His Majesty the King, Her Majesty the Queen, the Heir Apparent, and the Regent, the law is interpreted to cover any negative discussion about the monarchy in general.
The arrest of Hasadin comes during Thai authorities’ heightened crackdown on perceived "anti-monarchists." Although discussion of the monarchy remains largely taboo in public, internet forums and social media sites have opened up new spaces for dialogue in recent years.
After seizing power in a coup d’etat on 22 May 2014, Thailand’s military junta has stepped up efforts to monitor internet users and enforce the draconian lese majeste law, granting martial courts jurisdiction over lese majeste cases and other crimes related to "national security." Appeals are not permitted under the military tribunals.
"We will use legal measures, social-psychological measures, and telecommunications and information technology to deal with those who are not mindful of their words, are arrogant at heart, or harbour ill intentions to undermine the important Institution of the nation," junta leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told parliament last September.
Another Redshirt activist, Krit Bootdeecheen, was arrested on 4 February on suspicion of circulating a fake royal statement on social media on the night of 2 February. He was held without access to lawyer at the 11th Infantry Regiment camp for five days before being handed over to police.
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.