Prayut takes aim at BBC Thai over report

Prayut takes aim at BBC Thai over report

Authorities continue to investigate BBC Thai, but seem confused about its operations, including whether any staff actually reside in Thailand. (Screen grab via FB)
Authorities continue to investigate BBC Thai, but seem confused about its operations, including whether any staff actually reside in Thailand. (Screen grab via FB)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has insisted legal action will be taken against BBC Thai staff if they are found to have broken Thai laws.

Speaking after the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said those who live in the kingdom and break the law must face charges no matter what.

"If a person lives in Thailand and violates Thai law, prosecution must be carried out. That is it," the premier said. Some actions might be fine in other countries, but in Thailand deemed illegal, he added.

He also warned the media against disseminating any sensitive reports as they could face charges of sedition or violations of the Computer Crime Act.

Gen Prayut's comments came as Special Branch police said they would summon the website administrator, translators, editor and all other people involved in the publication of BBC Thai's website for questioning in regards to a controversial online report.

The BBC Thai web and Facebook sites continue to operate, but authorities have blocked one story which is alleged to have tarnished the monarchy. (Photo courtesy Ministry of Digital Economy and Society)

Pol Maj Gen Chayaphol Chatchaiyadech, actifng chief of the Special Branch Bureau, said Wednesday police now needed to question those involved in the article following the arrest on Saturday of student activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, known as Pai Daodin, for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code, known as the lese majeste law, and the Computer Crime Act for sharing the BBC Thai article online.

Pol Maj Gen Chayaphol, however, dismissed rumours that a police team had raided the BBC Thai office in the Maneeya Building on Ploenchit Road in Bangkok. If they want to avoid violating the lese majeste law, members of the public should avoid sharing any form of information that may be prohibited under this specific law, he said. Aside from BBC Thai, officials were also probing other websites suspected of committing a similar act.

Army chief Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart said the army will not allow anyone to tarnish the monarchy which is a highly respected institution. "We will strictly enforce Section 112 against those groups of people," he said.

Other countries need to understand Thai culture, said Gen Chalermchai. According to a source, the army has lodged the latest complaint against Mr Jatupat.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon on Tuesday said he ordered officials to investigate the BBC report.

"Anyone who breaks the law and causes damage must be dealt with," he said.

Asked whether the government will seek cooperation from foreign news agencies which have presented issues regarding the monarchy, Gen Prawit said officials have been monitoring them and checking which reports are incorrect.

BBC Thai declined to comment. BBC Thai has reportedly been closed since Friday, when the online report was released and drew the ire of many royalists. The BBC launched BBC Thai on Facebook in August 2014 and introduced the BBC Thai website last month.

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