BANGKOK — A 37-year-old man was charged with the royal insult, or lese majeste, for allegedly mocking the monarchy at a shopping mall in December, his lawyer said Monday.
Pawat Hiranpon was accused of feigning to genuflect and saying “Long Live Your Majesties” at Siam Paragon on Dec. 20 when several pro-democracy activists were walking past him, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. The group represents individuals who face charges under the lese majeste offense, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, per count.
Police considered Pawat’s behavior to be a mocking reference to the Royal Family, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said. Pawat is said to be the 58th person to have been charged with lese majeste since November, according to the group.
Prachatai news site reported that the complaint was filed against Pawat by a member of the Thai Phakdee, a hardline pro-monarchy network.
A statement released on Monday by a group of United Nations Special Rapporteurs on human rights also expressed concern over the increasingly harsh enforcement of the lese majeste law.
“We have repeatedly emphasized that lèse-majesté laws have no place in a democratic country,” the U.N. experts said in their statement. “Their increasingly harsh application has had the effect of chilling freedom of expression and further restricting civic space and the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms in Thailand.”
“We are profoundly disturbed by the reported rise in the number of lese majeste prosecutions since late 2020 and the harsher prison sentences,” they said.
“We call on the authorities to revise and repeal the lese majeste laws, to drop charges against all those who are currently facing criminal prosecution and release those who have been imprisoned for the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.”