Surge in posts about Thai monarch amid pandemic prompts warning
BANGKOK: The coronavirus pandemic led to a rare surge of online posts in Thailand questioning the monarchy on Sunday, with a government minister subsequently warning that inappropriate posts could lead to jail.
Insulting the monarchy is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison in Thailand.
Thailand has 122 new coronavirus cases, raising the total to more than 720, a health ministry spokesman said yesterday at a news conference. It has recorded one death so far.
A Thai-language hashtag that translates to #whydoweneedaking? was one of the top trending topics on Twitter in Thailand after an overseas Thai activist posted about King Maha Vajiralongkorn continuing to travel in Germany during the coronavirus crisis.
King Vajiralongkorn, 67, who was crowned last year, has a second home in Germany. He spends much of his time outside Thailand.
The hashtag questioning the monarchy was used more than 1.2 million times in 24 hours by Sunday, according to data on Twitter based on hashtags trending for users in Thailand.
Thailand's Royal Palace did not respond to requests for comment on the posts.
On Twitter, Minister of Digital Economy and Society Puttipong Punnakanta posted a warning to citizens against breaking laws on online content, accompanied by an image of a handcuffed hand above a keyboard.
"I'd rather not comment," he told Reuters when asked whether his March 22 post was related to those about the monarchy.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the health ministry reported 82 new coronavirus infections yesterday, bringing the country's total to 462, while deaths remain at 33.
Fears over the rise in cases led the Philippine Congress to hold a special session over the Internet yesterday to debate a push by President Rodrigo Duterte to adopt sweeping emergency powers, in a bid to avert chaos from a rapid spread of the coronavirus. - REUTERS