BANGKOK — Police on Tuesday said they arrested a pro-democracy campaigner who spread “hatred” toward the monarchy in an online post – an allegation disputed by his lawyer.
Karn Pongpraphapan, 25, was arrested at his home last night and taken to a police station where he was charged with violating the cybercrime law, according to a statement released today by the cyberpolice division. If found guilty, Karn faces five years in jail.
The police statement did not specify what Karn wrote, but described it as an “inappropriate content on Facebook spreading hatred” which “upset a number of people” after it was widely shared. Karn is charged under Section 14 of the Computer Crime Act, which bans disseminating online contents that “pose a threat to national security.”
But his attorney Winyat Chatmontree said the message in question was a public Facebook post Karn wrote on Oct. 2, which asked “How do you want it to end?”
Karn then went on to reference historical events involving past foreign monarchies, such as “shooting like the Russians,” “beheading by guillotine like the French,” and “exiled like the Germans.”
Top: Winyat, left, and Karn, right, at a police station.
Winyat said he wanted to stress that Karn’s writing did not mention the Thai monarchy in any way. He also disputed speculation on social media that Karn was criticizing the recent traffic woes allegedly caused by royal motorcade in Bangkok.
“He was not talking about the Thai monarchy. He was not talking about the royal convoy,” the lawyer said. “He was talking about the history of other nations.”
Winyat said the post was nonetheless twisted by a number of people, and some even shared the message while attaching an image of Thai royal family to the post, which Karn did not do. The activist later deleted the post and deactivated his account when it became clear that his words were being distorted, the lawyer said.
“There is an element of witch-hunting involved,” Winyat said. “He was falsely accused of attempting to overthrow the monarchy.”
The arrest came several days after digital economy minister Puttipong Punnakan announced that the police were on the verge of “purging” anti-monarchy figures on social media.
It also followed a recent wave of online discontent toward road blockades in the capital attributed to royal motorcades, which led to severe traffic congestion.
The police statement on Karn’s arrest warned that anyone sharing his message will be liable for prosecution under the same charge.
Winyat said Karn is currently held at a police station’s cellroom, and he will be brought to court later today for a bail hearing.
“He is in good spirits,” Winyat said.