TIME Thailand

Thailand’s Junta Wants to Extradite People Accused of Offending the Nation’s Monarchy

(WORLD SECTION) THAILAND-BANGKOK-KING-PORTRAIT
Rachen Sageamsak—Xinhua News Agency / Getty Images A woman walks past portraits of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej in downtown Bangkok, Thailand, Oct. 18, 2016

Reports have also emerged of royalist mobs attacking Thais not dressed in mourning colors

With Thailand reeling over last week’s death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a member of the ruling junta says it will seek to extradite people living abroad who are suspected of insulting the country’s monarchy.

According to Reuters, General Paiboon Koomchaya told reporters in the capital Bangkok that the junta will ask foreign governments to extradite people suspected of violating the country’s draconian lèse majesté law, which carries severe penalties. Ostensibly, the law is meant to protect the royal family from defamation but in practice is freely used as a tool to suppress dissent.

“We will ask for cooperation, friendship and respect from these countries and we hope that they understand that all Thais cannot accept these insults,” the general reportedly said, conceding that significant legal and diplomatic challenges could temper the request.

Authorities said they will seek to extradite six high-profile suspects living abroad, Reuters reports. The junta says the six have tried to provoke unrest in Thailand.

Local media reported earlier this week that an ultra-royalist vigilante group known as the Rubbish Collection Organization put out a call on social media for people to find a suspect who is believed to be hiding in Paris.

Thailand entered a year-long period of mourning on Friday following the passing of the country’s monarch. Upon his death at 88, he was the world’s longest reigning monarch, having held the throne for 70 years.

Tensions are high. Videos circulating online show a number of people in separate incidents being attacked by royalist mobs, or forced to prostrate themselves in front of images of the revered monarch, either for failing to wear mourning colors or for not mourning appropriately.

The junta has urged Thais to report suspected lèse majesté violations and has asked Internet service providers to monitor content and block what it sees as inappropriate material.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported Wednesday that Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn could be ready to ascend the throne as early as Friday. Citing Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the newspaper said that the date of his ascension is still unclear, but that the Prince could become King seven to 15 days after the date of his father’s death.

Previous reports have suggested that the Crown Prince, who has requested time to mourn, would not be succeeding to the throne for a year. A close aide to the late king, 96-year-old Prem Tinsulanonda, assumed the regency last week in his stead.

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