A group of Thais in Laos who are wanted back home on suspicion of violating a royal defamation law are facing arrest in Thailand over alleged death threats against its prime minister and deputy prime minister, an official said Monday.
Gen. Thawip Netniyom, chief of Thailand’s National Security Council (NSC), last week announced that he had been assigned to travel to Laos to seek the arrest of up to six suspects over alleged violations of the strict law, which is known as Lese-Majeste.
On Monday he said he was to contact Laotian officials to request the arrests and extradition of the suspects over death threats that followed last week’s announcement, according to reports. Thawip is waiting for confirmation from Laos about his travel plans, Reuters news service reported.
“The threats came from Thais who are disloyal to the monarchy and ran away to live in Laos. … It is the same group that held radio programs defaming the monarchy,” Thawip told reporters in Bangkok, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Government officials in Laos have not commented on the request.
The Lese-Majeste law, which carries a potential sentence of 15 years, prohibits the repetition or reproduction of content deemed as defaming members of Thailand’s royalty.
Since a military government headed by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha seized power in May 2014, at least 73 people have been charged with violating the law, often for comments posted on Facebook and other social media sites.
In January, a welder pleaded guilty to violating Lese-Majeste and Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act, drawing an 11-year, four-month prison sentence.
Burin Intin was the first Thai to be sentenced under Lese-Majeste since King Maha Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne on Dec. 1, following the death in October of his father, King Bhumbol Adulyadej, who ruled Thailand for 70 years.
Prayuth and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon showed little concern about the alleged threats. Prayuth said recently that he cared more about the country than his life and, on Monday, Prawit said he was not concerned about the treats and did not need additional bodyguards, according to Reuters.
“There is nothing to worry about. [W]e know where they are,” Prawit told reporters in Bangkok.