Cherprang’s parody page faces charge under Computer Crime Act

On a Facebook page critical of the Thai monarchy, Thai celebrity Cherprang Areekul was repeatedly photoshopped to resemble the Queen of Thailand. The page admin claims that they are being prosecuted under the lèse majesté law. Cherprang’s agency refutes the claim, saying that the legal action was in fact under the Computer Crime Act.

The Facebook page opened on 18 January 2021 now has 3,488 likes and 3,911 followers. On 27 January, Cherprang and her agency reported the allegedly illegal activities to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) and asked the authorities to restrict access to the page.

Late at night on 13 June, the page admin posted what they claimed to be an official criminal court document in which Cherprang accused them of lèse majesté. It was claimed that the document was sent to them via Messenger since the authorities could not find their location. In the event that their page was taken down by the authorities, the page admin said that they had opened a substitute page with a similar name and asked their followers to subscribe to the new page.  

Noraseth Nanongtoom, a human rights lawyer experienced in helping pro-democracy activists, questioned the validity of the court document. In a comment, he showed a real but redacted court summons from another case and said that normally the plaintiff would be the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES), not Cherprang herself. The document format was also different from other court documents he had seen.

Cherprang’s agency, Independent Artist Management Co Ltd (iAM), released an announcement saying that they reported only the alleged violation of the Computer Crime Act, not lèse majesté.

iAM asked the DES and TCSD about the veracity of the document and it was confirmed that the document was “edited.” The plaintiff is the DES, not Cherprang. The lèse majesté accusation also did not appear in the original document. iAM has asked the DES to take new proceedings against the page admin for the alleged forgery of an official document.

iAM has asked Thai internet users to delete or not to share the misleading document, warning that anyone who spreads false information to undermine Cherprang’s reputation will face legal action. The Facebook post with the document in question has had 1.1 k reactions and 1k shares as of 14 June.

In 2018, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, invited BNK48 to advertise its Happy Family Radio. Cherprang Areekul, leader of the group, accepted Prayut’s invitation to host “Thailand Moves Forward”, a TV programme propagandizing the junta’s agenda, causing a controversy over her apparent support for dictatorship.

Since then, BNK48, a popular spin-off from the famous Japanese AKB48 idol girl group, has caused a number of controversies. While some resigned to pursue further education or other careers, a number of band members, including Mesa Chinavicharana and Maira Kuyama, left for what fans suspected were violations of the band’s rule against having boyfriends.

Nayika ‘Can’ Srinian who left for the same reason, later joined the Move Forward Party to be part of their public relations team for the Bangkok Metropolitan Council elections in Bueng Kum and Khan Na Yao districts. Nayika also later became an adviser to the parliamentary subcommittee studying game software and the e-sport industry in December 2020.

In 2020, Sumitta ‘Fai’ Duangkaew, a band member who became very vocal in support of pro-democracy protesters, was fired before she had a chance to resign. BNK48 said they could not reveal any details for legal reasons but claimed that it had nothing to do with her political opinions. Fai said later on Facebook Live that she was fired because she posted her account number online, but was not given a single warning from the company before she was fired. 

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