Police arrest 6 suspects in alleged online lèse majesté network

Thai police arrested six people as part of a “criminal organization” for distributing online materials allegedly defaming the monarchy.  

Pol Lt Gen Prawut Thavornsiri, spokesperson of the Royal Thai Police, held a press briefing on Monday on the arrests of six lèse majesté suspects: Damrong S., Siwaporn P., Ngernkoon U., Paisit J., Anchan P., and Tara W.

They appeared before a military court on Monday as the police submitted a custody petition. The police spokesperson said at the briefing that two of the suspects, Aunchan and Tara, have already confessed due to concrete evidence collected against the two.

The six are accused of being members of a ‘Bunpot Network’, a network of people who allegedly distributed lèse majesté content online, led by a man referred to as Bunpot.

The police and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), who cooperated in the efforts to hunt down the group, said the group has been operating since 2011 and that the group’s activities are grave threats to national security and the institution of the revered Thai monarchy.

Pol Maj Gen Siripong Timula, Deputy Commander of the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD), said that the group is a criminal organization which operated through lines of command. The commander level was responsible for producing lèse majesté content. The support level sought financial support and the operative level was responsible for distributing the lèse majesté content. He added that the group propagated lèse majesté content on social media, such as Facebook, blogs, and YouTube.    

“From the investigation, the suspects in this network operated systematically. They had been dividing work, holding secret meetings, and attempting to use distorted information to propagate false information,” said Siripong.  

Prawut said that the leader of the group, Bunpodj, has fled overseas and that the police will arrest other suspects in the alleged lèse majesté network as soon as possible.

Bunpot is known among red shirts for political podcast programmes which criticized the establishment.

Since the suspects were accused of distributing lèse majesté content on the internet, they are likely to be charged under Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act for importing illegal content into computer systems, in addition to the lèse majesté charge.