April 1, 2018 / 6:30 AM / 22 days ago

Thai editor faces charges over picture of kings wearing masks

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Thai editor faces possible criminal charges for sharing a student’s “disrespectful” picture of historic kings wearing face masks to highlight air pollution in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

The governor of Chiang Mai told Reuters on Sunday that he believed Pim Kemasingki, editor of the Chiang Mai Citylife magazine, had breached the Computer Crime Act by sharing the picture.

“It is up to the police to gather evidence,” Pawin Chamniprasart said.

In a letter to police, he wrote that the kings are worshipped and respected in Chiang Mai and “using the picture with the three kings wearing masks is disrespectful.”

Thailand’s cyber crime law, which criminalizes defamation and obscenity, has been widely critisized by international rights groups for curtailing freedom of expression.

Pim, a Thai-British national, said the image of the three statues wearing masks had been shared on a Facebook page publicising a “Right to Breathe” anti-air pollution rally that had later been cancelled at the request of the governor.

“I shared this picture thinking it was pertinent and powerful,” Pim told Reuters.

“For decades I’ve been promoting the city and loving it... so it’s quite unsettling that fighting for healthy air for my fellow citizens has turned into me besmerching the city.”

Recently, Thailand has suffered from some of its worst air pollution in years.

Achariya Ruangrattanapong, a lawyer for Pim, said he was confident that sharing the picture was not a violation of the cyber crime law.

“How can this be a computer crime if it involves a picture that a child drew?” he said.

Pawin said he was not seeking charges of royal insult against Pim. Under Thailand’s strict lese majeste law, those found guilty of insulting the monarchy face up to 15 years in prison.

Additional reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Kim Coghill

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