BANGKOK — Police said Friday a court has issued an arrest warrant for a firebrand anti-royalist detractor living in French exile on a charge of insulting the monarchy, a count that carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail.
The warrant for Saran Chuichai, aka Aum Neko, was approved by the court on Oct. 14, but technology crime police only told reporters about it on Friday, when a hardline royalist went to the cybercrime headquarters to demand a speedy extradition and prosecution of the former student activist.
“Our commanders have instructed us to proceed with this case swiftly,” said Lt. Col. Uthai Laosil, an officer at Technology Crime Suppression Division.
Uthai said the warrant was approved after Saran, who’s better known by her nom de guerre Aum Neko, posted a video mocking the death of His Majesty the King, who died on Oct. 13 at 88. The video drew widespread outrage from supporters of the monarchy.
Saran, who rose to fame as a transgender student activist, is charged with royal defamation, a law also known as lese majeste. After the military staged a coup in May 2014, Saran fled to France, where she has since been residing as an asylum seeker.
Ponnipa Supatnukul, a television talk show host who filed an earlier lese majeste charge against Saran in 2013, complained in a meeting with Uthai on Friday that police should have acted faster to apprehend Saran before she managed to escape the country.
“If [police] had prosecuted the case quickly and if they had not dawdled back then, Mr. Saran [sic] would not have had an opportunity to flee overseas and commit actions that hurt the hearts of Thai people to this day,” Ponnipa said.
She also threatened to take legal action against police if they failed to bring Saran back to Thailand.
A number of Thai activists and academics have fled Thailand since the May 2014 coup to avoid punishment on lese majeste charges. Thai authorities have repeatedly pledged to bring these critics of the monarchy to stand trial in Thailand, but no country has agreed to an extradition so far.