Thai police Friday questioned the wife of a British journalist over “defamatory photos” of Thai royalty that her husband had allegedly shared on social media, even though he was not in Thailand and lives abroad.
Noppawan “Ploy” Bunluesilp, a Thai national married to Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a former correspondent for Reuters who is based in Scotland, was taken in and questioned for four hours at the police Crime Suppression Division (CSD) in Bangkok and then released, her lawyer told BenarNews.
The Kingdom of Thailand has strict laws guarding against royal defamation – known as Lese-Majeste. Cases where people have been arrested or prosecuted for publishing pictures, comments or other content perceived as slights against the royal family have increased sharply since the Thai military seized power two years ago.
First-time offenders can face up to 15 years in prison. Repeat offenders can be sentenced to longer terms.
Police took Noppawan, her father, and 3-year-old son in for questioning after officers raided her father’s home in Bangkok and seized her computer, iPad, passport and other items, said her attorney, Weeranan Huadsri.
“They were released and there were no charges pressed. All confiscated items were returned,” Weeranan told BenarNews, noting that police denied him access to his clients while they were being questioned.
Noppawan lives in Scotland with her journalist-author husband, who lectures in journalism at Edinburgh Napier University. Marshall, who was visiting Hong Kong on Friday according to reports, issued a statement saying he has been unable to visit Thailand because his writings on the Thai monarchy have been banned under Lese-Majeste.
‘Invited’ for questioning
Noppawan and her son Charlie were visiting relatives in Thailand.
The incident with police occurred a day after unflattering pictures appeared on Marshall’s Facebook page that showed Thai Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn on the tarmac of Munich Airport. The photos had been published in Bild, a German tabloid, on Wednesday.
Pol. Lt. Gen. Thitiraj Nongharnpitak, commander of the police’s Central Investigation Bureau, the central investigation police, which oversees the CSD, told reporters that the photos were doctored and deemed as insulting to members of the royal family.
“Police learned that Andrew and two Thai companions joined a syndicate to produce fake information to post on social media. So police sought a search warrant from Thonburi court and invited his wife for questioning and chatting,” Pol. Lt. Gen. Thitiraj said according to local news reports.
Upon learning of his wife’s trouble, Marshall posted a video clip online pleading for the release of Noppawan, their son and his father-in-law.
“I am confident [that] when the police look through the computer they confiscated, they will be able to see clearly that Ploy has never been involved in my journalism. The family has never been taken part in my journalism,” Marshall said, using his wife’s nickname Ploy.
His wife had been a journalist for Reuters and NBC, he said in a separate statement issued to the media.
“There is no reason for police to detain her. If Thai police believe that I have broken Thai law they should seek my extradition to Thailand via legitimate international legal channels. It is unacceptable to harass an innocent woman simply because she is married to me,” he said.
Marshall is the author of the controversial book, “A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century,” which was published in January 2014.
The book was banned in Thailand because it touches on uncertainty throughout the kingdom over the question of who will succeed Thailand’s ailing king, 88-year-old Bhumipol Adulyadej (Rama IX), after he dies.
After police released family, Marshall posted another clip online.
“They questioned her to see if she was involved in any illegal activities linked to me. It seemed they decided she was not, which is quite correct and they let her go. So I would [like to] say ‘thank you’ to the Thai authorities for acting in a professional manner,” he said.