Thai police arrest famed social critic for insulting king

November 7th, 2008 - 5:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Nov 7 (DPA) Thai police Friday released on bail famed social critic Sulak Sivaraksa after arresting him on charges of insulting the king in a speech he made last year.Sulak, 76, was arrested in Bangkok Thursday evening and driven to Khon Kaen, 370 km north-east of the capital, where he was interrogated for three hours on charges of insulting the monarchy in a speech he delivered at Khon Kaen University Dec 10, 2007.

Sulak was informed Monday of another police charge of showing disrespect to the king for an article he had written in the Seeds of Peace magazine published several years ago.

“This is strange,” said Sulak of the two charges, both based on old incidents.

“I was told, unofficially, that there was a hidden hand behind the scene who wants me prosecuted,” Sulak told DPA.

Sulak’s arrest comes at a sensitive time for the Thai monarchy, which in Thailand is protected by a lese majeste law that prohibits criticism of the king. Violation carries a maximum sentence of 15 years of imprisonment.

The government last month ordered a crackdown on websites that criticize the monarchy.

On Nov 14-16 Thailand will observe three days of national mourning for Princess Galyani Vadhana, the elder sister of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The princess died Jan 2, 2008, aged 84.

The monarchy has been dragged in to a struggle between the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and pro-government forces.

The PAD is fanatically opposed to efforts to return fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to power, and is seeking the downfall of the current government under Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin’s brother-in-law.

Thaksin, in a phone-in to a rally of some 60,000 supporters Saturday said his return to Thailand, where he faces a two-year jail sentence on abuse of power conviction, would depend on the “kindness of His Majesty or the power of the people.”

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