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Southeast Asia

Prominent Thai activist arrested for alleged defamation of new king

A Thai anti-junta activist has been arrested for "royal insult." Rights groups say it is the first such case brought under the country's new king.

Thai activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa has been arrested for allegedly defaming the king (above photo) after sharing a biography written by British broadcaster BBC about the new monarch on Facebook, police said on Saturday.

Police Colonel Jaturon Trakulpan said Jatupat was arrested at a temple and charged with lese-majeste under Article 112 of Thailand's criminal code.

The article says that anyone who "defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent" will face up to 15 years' imprisonment.

The BBC biography of King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, who ascended the throne on Thursday, contains discussions of aspects of his life that normally find no mention among Thai media for fear of being prosecuted under the country's strict lese-majeste laws.

Janupat has been arrested several times previously for criticizing the country's ruling military government and defying its orders.

Police crackdown

Thai authorities have cracked down on critics of the monarchy since taking power in a May 2014 coup, and intensified their actions since the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej,  the present king's father, died on October 13.

Social media users have questioned why Jatupat was targeted by police in view of the fact that some 2,000 other Facebook users also shared the BBC link.

The profile of the new king, which is available in Thai and English, has remained on the BBC website and Facebook pages.

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tj/jlw (Reuters, dpa)

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