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Asia

Interpol warrants issued over Thai 'royal insults'

Thailand is seeking global cooperation in hunting down those accused of insulting the monarchy. Interpol warrants for 19 suspects in seven countries have been issued though there's no guarantee countries would extradite.

The country's military government has requested that several people be extradited for insulting the monarchy after the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

"There may be a problem because if these crimes aren't illegal in the other countries, it will make extradition difficult," Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told reporters. "However, we can still ask for cooperation."

Thailand's lese-majeste law - which criminalizes criticism of the monarchy - is among the toughest in the world; speaking ill of the royal family can lead to up to 15 years imprisonment.

Following this month's death of the southeast Asian country's king, surveillance of online content has increased. The Thai government last week requested that certain videos be removed from the online platform YouTube. That's in parallel to a jump in the number of prosecutions for criticism of the monarch, the regent or the heir to the throne. Since taking power in 2014, Thailand's military junta, known officially as the National Council for Peace and Order, has taken a tough stance on dissenters.

Thailand ignores international criticism

Criticism from the international community over prison sentences for civilians found guilty of violating the lese-majeste law has so far not dissuaded the junta's tough line as it seeks to bolster ultranationalist sympathies. 

"First, the extradition requests are part of scare tactics to curb the so-called violations, and second, to appease the powerful elite factions whose interests rely on ultra-royalism," Verapat Pariyawong, a visiting scholar at London's SOAS School of Law, told Reuters.

To date, no country has openly indicated readiness to extradite any suspect to Thailand.

jar/blc (dpa, Reuters)

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