Thai foreign media club faces royal slur probe: police

Police in Thailand said Friday they were investigating an alleged insult to the revered monarchy by the board of the kingdom's foreign correspondents' club, a crime punishable by 15 years in jail.

A woman had filed a complaint against the entire 13-member board of the club over the distribution of a DVD that included a controversial speech made at the club in 2007, police and the board said.

"We learnt this morning through a news report that a lese majeste complaint was filed against the FCCT's board last night," said Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) president Marwaan Macan-Markar.

"We understand that the police have an obligation to conduct an inquiry. The FCCT will cooperate with such an inquiry."

Lese majeste -- insulting the monarchy -- is a serious charge in Thailand. Anyone can file a complaint, and police are duty-bound to investigate it in a country where the king is treated with almost religious adulation.

The latest accusation was made at a central Bangkok police station and passed to Metropolitan Police headquarters, local police superintendent Colonel Somprasong Yenthaum said.

"Under the law local area police cannot investigate the lese majeste case. We have to refer it to the Metropolitan Police who will set up a committee to investigate," Somprasong told AFP.

The complaint -- the first to be made against the club in its five-decade history -- was instigated by a 57-year-old woman, a known critic of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, local media reported.

The DVD included a controversial speech by pro-Thaksin politician Jakrapob Penkair in 2007 about the coup against Thaksin the year before, for which Jakrapob was accused of lese majeste and quit his cabinet post in May 2008.

The club's board includes the BBC's Bangkok correspondent Jonathan Head, who is also under investigation under lese majeste laws, partly because he moderated at Jakrapob's speech.

Media watchdogs have criticised increased use of the law in recent months, with crackdowns on Internet freedoms leading to more than 4,800 web pages being blocked under the law since March last year, according to officials.

Source: AFP

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