3 accused of violating law protecting Thai monarchy

AP News
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Posted: Oct 21, 2015 9:58 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — Three people including a well-known fortune teller and a senior police officer were arrested Wednesday under a law that protects the royal family.

The three men were heavily guarded as they were taken to a military court in Bangkok. Reporters were not allowed inside and officials would not give details of their alleged crime. Local reports have said they used the royal family's name for personal benefit.

"We have arrest warrants for all three of them. That means we must have quite a lot of evidence, otherwise the court wouldn't issue the warrants," said Lt. Gen. Sriwara Rangsipramanakul, Thailand's assistant police chief.

The court ordered the men to be detained at an army base pending trial, for which no date has been set. The fortune teller, Suriyan Sutjritpolwongse, who is better known by the nickname "Mor Yong," was recently involved in organizing a mass biking event to honor Queen Sirikit and was helping organize a similar event for King Bhumibol Adulyadej to mark his 87th birthday in December.

Discussion of the monarchy is extremely sensitive in Thailand. A strict lese majeste law makes criticism of the royal family punishable by up to 15 years in prison per incident.

Over the past year, there has been a significant increase in lese majeste convictions, which rights groups say is part of a wider crackdown on dissent since the military seized power from a civilian government in May 2014.