Parody or Coincidence? Activist Photoshoot Divides Opinions

Image: The Bottom Blues / Facebook

BANGKOK — Parody is in the eye of the beholder.

Netizens found something new to argue about on Friday when celebrities turned activists Inthira “Sai” Charoenpura and Chaiamorn “Ammy” Kaewwiboonpan posted photos of themselves visiting an undisclosed location – though their posture seems to imitate King Rama IX’s upcountry visits.

The photo was first posted by Inthira, who said it was a trip to a mine.

Chaiamorn, who’s also a lead singer with the pop band Bottom Blues, later posted more photos of the same trip. “An album here. I’m scared the salims won’t screenshot this fast enough,” Ammy wrote, using a derogatory term for the pro-establishment supporters.

Many in both pro- and anti-government camps quickly deduced that the photos were a parody of the late King Bhumibol, who was often photographed in a similar manner.

“All that these people can do is to mock and trample on the hearts of people loyal to the monarchy. They will never be happy on this land,” pro-establishment Facebook page Jun Everything wrote

“They are evil beyond measure,” user Wanthanee Kleeklaew also wrote in the pro-establishment PDRC Hot News Update group. 

King Bhumibol and his entourage visit a rural community in Narathiwat province on Sept. 7, 1981.

MGR Online, a news site known for its ultraroyalist streak, reported the incident with a strongly worded headline, “The bastards keep up their antics.”

Naturally, supporters of the two activists see it as harmless fun. Some went further and photoshopped the photos, adding sepia filters to give it a vintage, aged look.

“You almost got it. You just need a drop of sweat on your nose,” Facebook user Tonglang Duangladna commented. Someone also turned the photo into a calendar.

Inthira and Chaiamorn have not spoken out on the controversy. Neither of them mentioned King Bhumibol in their posts.

But several people have been charged with royal defamation, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in jail per count, for allegedly mocking members of the Royal Family, even without any explicit mention. One person was charged for wearing a crop-top, another for donning a traditional Thai costume.

Hardline pro-royalists have also pledged to ramp up royal insult complaints against the activists. In just a spate of three months, 56 people and counting have been charged under Article 112 of the Criminal Codes, a law also known as lese-majeste. 

Inthira is known for donating to and fundraising for the anti-government protests that broke out in 2020. She has been charged with violating the lese-majeste law for an online post. 

Chaiamorn has been arrested multiple times for his role in leading the pro-democracy protests. He also features heavily in a viral rap song that criticizes the monarchy which has been geo-blocked in Thailand on YouTube.