KHON KAEN — Security officers paid a visit to a man who posted a photo of himself with a shirt printed “I lost faith in the monarchy,” a civil rights group said.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights identified the man as Khon Kaen resident Tiwagorn Withiton. He was reportedly visited by government officials and police on Thursday and Friday and told to stop wearing the shirt.
“The visit with 10 or so officers was friendly. I understand their intentions that this would affect the relationships between people who love it and people who lost their faith,” Tiwagorn wrote on his Facebook Sunday. “I explained myself fully to them, and they listened to me without threatening me.”
The visit started with two plainclothes officers from the counter-insurgency Internal Security Operations Command, according to Tiwagorn. He said he was not home at the time, so the officials talked to Tiwagorn’s mom and asked him about the shirt.
On Saturday, the officers returned, this time in a force of about ten, including ISOC officers, Khon Kaen police, and central government officials.
Tiwagorn said that over the course of the hour-long visit, the visitors tried to convince him not to wear the shirt anymore because it would cause division in the country. The officials also recorded the meeting.
“I replied that it was impossible because I was just wearing a shirt that some people might disagree with, but it probably wouldn’t go as far as to cause chaos,” Tiwagorn said. “Then they asked, ‘what if someone assaults you and claims that they are a government official to slander?’ I replied, ‘If that happens, I hope the government really investigates it.’”
Tiwagorn wrote that he had been spurred to post about the shirt after the kidnapping of dissident and monarchy critic Wanchalerm Satsaksit in Cambodia earlier in June.
“To say that I am afraid would be to make light of the souls and sacrifices of the fighters for democracy that have died, been imprisoned, or escaped the country,” he said.
Tiwagorn first posted a photo of himself smiling and wearing the shirt on June 16 on his Facebook.
“Losing faith isn’t the same as wanting to overthrow the monarchy,” he wrote in the caption. “It’s a feeling inside your heart similar to falling out of love or losing one’s trust … There is no way to force people who ‘lost faith’ to regain their faith using violence.”
He also wrote that the shirt is a special order for personal use and he does not have plans to produce more or make them for sale.
Tiwagorn did not respond to messages as of press time.
Section 6 of the current constitution requires Thais to hold the monarchy in reverence. Any act or remark deemed insulting toward the Royal Family members is also punishable by several offenses, including royal defamation and cybercrime.