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Thailand arrests web influencers accused of insulting royal family

Trio face up to 15 years in prison after appearing in videos that enraged royalists

Marchers walk past a picture of King Maha Vajiralongkorn during a 2020 pro-democracy rally in Bangkok.   © Reuters

BANGKOK -- Thai authorities arrested three influencers Thursday for allegedly mocking a member of the royal family in online promotional videos.

Convictions could mean up to 15 years in prison under the country's strict lese-majeste regime.

The trio appeared in online ads posted by e-commerce platform Lazada in May to promote a sales event. One of the influencers was shown in a wheelchair, wearing traditional Thai dress.

To supporters of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, this was a veiled reference to the king's younger sister, who uses a wheelchair. Lazada, a subsidiary of Alibaba Group Holding, later took down the offending content and apologized.

Thailand's lese-majeste legislation prescribes punishment for those who defame, insult or threaten the royals. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha called the video unacceptable, and the army ordered personnel not to buy from Lazada.

The government is gathering potential indictment evidence. An activist has filed a complaint with police as well.

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