Celebs face charges for anti-govt comments
At least 25 in trouble over Covid criticism
More than 25 celebrities and influencers are being investigated for insulting the government over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, deputy Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) commissioner Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai said.
He said that police were gathering evidence against those influencers, including singers, and TV stars, and that freedom of expression is a basic right, but only when people express their opinions under a legal framework.
He explained that insults and defamation are minor offences that carry a fine and can be settled out of court, while cases involving violations under the Computer Crime Act will be sent to the Royal Thai Police's Technology Crime Suppression Division.
Under the Computer Crime Act, offences, such as putting false information into a computer system, which causes damage to people, carry a fine of no more than 100,000 baht and/or a jail term of no more than five years.
Nang Loeng police this week fined rapper, Danupa "Milli" Khanatheerakul, 2,000 baht for criticising the government on her social media account in accusing it of bungling the Covid-19 crisis. Another two influencers who face similar charges are Yutthalert Sippaphak, a well-known film director and Miss Grand Thailand 2020 Patcharporn Chantharapradit.
House Speaker Chuan Leekpai yesterday commented on influencers who criticised the government's handling of the crisis.
Government critics should not worry as long as they exercise their right to free speech under the law. But if they break the law, they will have to face the consequences, Mr Chuan said.
At the same time, the government must not enforce the law beyond legal limits and it is wrong to press trumped-up charges against people who do not commit any offences, Mr Chuan said.
On Wednesday, ex-Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) member Sonthiya Sawatdee lodged a complaint with the MPB calling on the force to investigate more than 20 celebrities, including Danupa, for criticising the government.
Mr Sonthiya urged police to investigate the influencer's comments. They included claims that the government's vaccination plan is unclear and that the healthcare system is being mismanaged. He said such criticism is "baseless", considered illegal under the Computer Crime Act, Emergency Decree, and Communicable Diseases Act.
However, the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) has tried to distance itself from Mr Sonthiya as the party has faced heavy criticism that it is stifling Thais' right to freedom of expression and siding with the wrong side.
The government has come under widespread criticism, not just from celebrities.
Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn previously said the move by the influencers to express their dissatisfaction with the government is no problem as the government understands their concerns.
However, Mr Chaiwut warned the influencers not to spread untrue information and fake news concerning the government's Covid-19 management. Mr Chaiwut said spreading fake news on the internet is a crime against national stability.