BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s military government urged people not to take the law into their own hands on Monday after three videos surfaced on social media of angry mobs accusing people of insulting the monarchy following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The death of the revered king last Thursday after seven decades on the throne plunged the Southeast Asian country into mourning and heightened sensitivities to any negative comment.
Criticism of the monarch, the regent and the heir, known by the French term lese majeste, is a crime that carries a jail sentence of up to 15 years in Thailand.
On Friday, a crowd of around 400 people gathered in front of a soya milk shop in Phuket province to protest a Facebook post by the vendor’s son that they deemed insulting to the king.
“They wanted to make a stand that no one could insult the king they love,” Police Major General Teerapon Tipcharoen, commander of Phuket Provincial Police, told Reuters.
Video of an incident on the southern island of Samui that was posted on Sunday resulted in a woman being made to prostrate herself before a portrait of the late king while an onlooking crowd jeered “Get out!”.
In the third incident, in the southern province of Phang Nga, hundreds of people gathered outside the house of a man, angry over a comment he had posted on Facebook.
The man remained inside as the people shouted at him - one was heard saying “If you live in Thailand you have to love the king” - and then the crowd dispersed when police assured them that they would look into the case.
The junta last week urged citizens to report cases of lese majeste to authorities. Police are also closely monitoring online content and social media posts.
“We understand that some people will not be happy with royal insults. I want people to let authorities deal with the cases in accordance with the law,” said Suwapan Tanyuwattana, a minister attached to the prime minister’s office.
Reporting by Cod Satrusayang, Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Editing by John Chalmers and Nick Macfie