Thailand: The place where the smallest acts are crimes

Thai soldiers pictured in Bangkok. Photo / AP
Thai soldiers pictured in Bangkok. Photo / AP

Life in Thailand has been taking on a creepy Big Brother-style feeling of late.

Those who have dared to speak or act out against authorities are being arrested for even the smallest and seemingly harmless acts.

The country has been under the control of a military dictatorship since May 2014, and the army has been fiercely determined to silence any dissent. Army chief and self-appointed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced his determination to "return happiness to the people" at the time. But it seems this may come at any cost, PRI.org reports.

Because people are being silenced for ridiculous things. Even eating a sandwich got one man in a whole lot of trouble. Sure, it was declared a "sandwich for democracy", but it was still just a snack, eaten by an activist while reading George Orwell's 1984.

"I am not a very brave person so, yes, I got kind of nervous and my hands were shaking," the 33-year-old sandwich eater, nicknamed Champ, said (his full name has been withheld) of his 'rebellious' act.

Champ had been trying to expose how far officers would go to silence any subversion, and was rewarded by swiftly being detained.

"They dragged me away. They slapped my head. They just kept punching me until they were sure that I couldn't escape ... In the end they just made a fool of themselves."

Champ was taken to an army facility where he was interrogated and told he was a 'betrayer' of the country.

So what are some other seemingly harmless acts that could land you behind bars?

For 40-year-old Patnaree Chankij, it was typing a single word on Facebook. The widow faces up to 15 years in jail for typing "ja" (which means "yeah" or "I see") in response to a private, anti-monarchist message.

And never, ever insult the king's dog. Thanakorn Siripaiboon was charged after making a "sarcastic" comment online about King Bhumipol Aduladej's canine companion.

He faced a whopping 37 years behind bars for the offence, which occurred in December and allegedly included "defamatory" comments against the king himself.

He has since been granted bail after being detained for nearly 90 days.

"I never imagined they would use the law for the royal dog," Anon Numpa, Mr Thanakorn's lawyer, told The New York Times. "It's nonsense."


Ridiculously, the case was deemed "too sensitive" for locals to even read about at the time, with the paper blanking out the spot where the article would have appeared after the local printer refused to publish it.

Another big no-no in Thailand? Raising three fingers - which comes from the Hunger Games movies and is an anti-tyranny salute.

- news.com.au

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