Three influencers charged with royal defamation over Lazada ads

Three online influencers were arrested yesterday (16 June) and charged with royal defamation for taking part in an online sales campaign which allegedly made fun of members of the royal family.

From left: Thidaporn Chaokuwiang, Aniwat Prathumthin, and Kittikhun Thamakitirat

Kittikhun Thamakitirat, an online influencer who runs the Facebook page Momdew Diary, was arrested at home yesterday morning and taken to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) headquarters. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that Kittikhun was arrested on a royal defamation charge related to an online video advertisement produced as part of a sales campaign for the online shopping application Lazada.

Two other online influencers who participated in the video, Aniwat Prathumthin or “Nara Crepe Katoei” and Thidaporn Chaokuwiang or “Nurat,” were also later arrested and taken to the TCSD headquarters.

The video advertisements were initially released on Aniwat’s TikTok account in May 2022. The first video features Thidaporn in traditional Thai dress and sitting in a wheelchair with Kittikhun, also in Thai traditional dress, standing next to her as Aniwat is giving her skincare products. The second video features Thidaporn, still in traditional Thai dress and sitting in a wheelchair, while Aniwat accuses her of stealing her clothes and recommends that she buy clothes from Lazada during their 5.5. sales campaign. Thidaporn then gets up from her wheelchair in shock.

As of yesterday (16 June), the two videos are no longer on Aniwat’s TikTok account.

While some netizens found the video in bad taste, saying that it seems to be making fun of people with disability, royalist groups said that the video made fun of members of the Thai royal family, but the groups never identified which member of the royal family is being mocked in the video.

Despite public apologies on 6 May from both lazada and Intersect Design Factory, the media agency in charge of producing the video, , around a dozen people from the royalist group People’s Network Protecting the Monarchy went to Bhiraj Tower on Sukhumvit Road where the platform’s office is located, demanding an explanation from company executives over the ads that “affect the hearts of Thais countrywide”.

The group claimed that the advertisement mocked the costumes of those who the Thai people respect and made fun of the disabled, claiming that the campaign has a “hidden political agenda” in wanting to make fun of the institution that Thai people respect. It also started an online campaign calling for people to stop using Lazada’s platform.

Srisuwan Janya, an activist known as Thailand’s “complainer-in-chief,” also filed a complaint against the two companies and Aniwat under the Computer Crimes Act and the royal defamation law.

The three were later granted bail using a 90,000-baht security each and released. The Court set them the conditions that they must not repeat their offense and must report to th court every 30 days.

Aniwat said that she was contacted by TCSD officers while in another province, so she flew back to Bangkok, after which the officers went to execute the arrest warrant and took her to the TCSD headquarters. She said that she has no ill intention and is willing to prove her innocence in the judicial process. She also said that she wants to take responsibility for everyone who worked with her on the videos, that she is most concerned about Thidaporn, who is hearing-impaired, and will be covering Thidaporn’s bail money, legal fees, and transportation costs.

Meanwhile, Kittikhun said that she was shocked when she was arrested, but that she willingly cooperated with the officers. She also said that she is sure of her own innocence, and that she does not know Aniwat personally but was hired to participate in the video.

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