Skywalk Protest Photo Costs TV Channel Employee Her Job

Demonstrators in Bangkok on Dec. 14, 2019.

BANGKOK — Controversy over a photo that some say insulted the monarchy during a recent protest forced a TV station worker to resign on Monday.

Mono Group, which owns Mono 29 news channel, said in a statement that the employee submitted her resignation following criticism over her “inappropriate” action at Saturday’s rally in downtown Bangkok. The statement said she regretted her action, but some hardline monarchy supporters say the punishment is not enough.

The ex-employee, Pimchanok Puksuk, posted the controversial photo on Saturday from a protest at BTS Skywalk in Pathumwan Intersection. In the picture, she held up a sign saying “Fuck you dictatorship” while juxtaposing it with a giant portrait of the late King Rama IX displayed at a nearby art gallery.

Her friends then wrote comments on the photo with joking references to the monarchy. Pimchanok appeared to initially set the image as “Private” but later changed it to “Public,” which soon attracted attention from a network of pro-monarchy Facebook groups.

Among royalists who lashed out at the photo was Chulcherm Yugala, a distant relative of King Rama V and holder of royally-bestowed title Mom Chao. In a post that has been shared over 900 times, Chulcherm published personal information of Pimchanok and her friends, including their workplaces.

“We have to condemn these people. I do not fear being sued, and I’d take responsibility over my words,” Chulcherm wrote. “Let us remember the names and surnames of these scum.”

Mono Group, where Pimchanok reportedly works, later issued a statement saying she “voluntarily” resigned from the company. It also urged her detractors to halt their online harassment campaign.

“We’d like to ask the public to stop any harassment against her,” Mono Group said, without identifying Pimchanok by name.

A number of hardline royalists continued to disparage her as of publication time.

“She deserves being fired [sic]. It’s actually too light, she deserves prison time as well,” Facebook user Suwilai Boonthiwaporn commented.

“I don’t have any sympathy for her at all, and no other place should hire her for some time,” Chan Ct Thungkasawat wrote.

Criticism or negative reference to the monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison under royal defamation laws, also known as lese majeste.

Although discussions related to the Royal Family became relatively more common in the social media era, critics of the monarchy risk being “doxxed,” or having their personal information published by pro-monarchy groups that routinely patrol the internet for what they deem to be offensive remarks.

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