THAILAND’S King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is 88, has a favourite dog. Thongdaeng (“Copper”) is a stray whom he adopted in 1998.
Four years later he penned a best-selling book about her. Thongdaeng, he wrote, is a “respectful dog with proper manners”. She is “humble and knows protocol. She would always sit lower than the King; even when he pulls her up to embrace her, Thongdaeng would lower herself down on the floor, her ears in a respectful drooping position, as if she would say ‘I don’t dare’.”
A rather fitting model for the king’s subjects, in other words.
And this month an animated film based on the book hit Thai cinemas to the applause of the junta that seized power in May 2014 (abolishing politics along with open expression).
A rather fitting model for the king’s subjects, in other words. And this month an animated film based on the book hit Thai cinemas to the applause of the junta that seized power in May 2014 (abolishing politics along with open expression). Quite how seriously the generals take Thongdaeng has now become clear with the arrest of Thanakorn Siripaiboon.
Since their coup, the generals have made heavy use of laws against lèse-majesté, or insulting the monarchy. Mr Thanakorn has learnt, in a military court, that the laws protect the monarch’s copper bitch too. The Bangkok factory worker has been charged over a “sarcastic” post on the internet concerning Thongdaeng.
He has also been charged with sedition and insulting the king. He could be imprisoned for up to 37 years if convicted—all for Facebook comments, “likes” and “shares”. Rape in Thailand earns 17 years less than that. Khaosod English, the open-minded website that chose to break the story, quickly took down the post. Other Thai media will not touch it.