11 July 2024

Royalist groups rallied in front of the Lazada office in downtown Bangkok this afternoon (Friday), to demand accountability from the online shopping platform for a controversial video clip uploaded to TikTok, which is being deemed, by some, as offensive to the monarchy and bullying the disabled.

With a plan to submit a letter to the management of Lazada, the group was seeking an explanation as to why the controversial clip was allowed to be published.

Lazada management did not, however, send a senior representative to accept the letter, but only a member of staff instead. The protesters refused to hand over the letter, which was later torn up before they dispersed with a parting warning that they will declare “war” on Lazada.

In the letter, they said that the Thai people could not accept the clip which, the protesters claim, has a hidden agenda to mock the monarchy and disabled people. They also alleged that the failure of Lazada to take action against those responsible for the production of the clip means that Lazada was complicit in the misconduct.

The Thai-language #BanLazada hashtag has attracted more than 100,000 tweets in response to the clip, which has been taken down, as of this afternoon. Some users even posted guides on how to deactivate their Lazada accounts and remove the app from their phones in a gesture of protest against the promotional clip.

The video, posted on TikTok to promote a Lazada sales campaign, shows two online influencers, Nara Aniwat and Thidaporn “Nurat” Chaokuwiang, promoting the Lazada platform for clothes shopping. Thidaporn is seen dressed in a traditional Thai costume and sitting in a wheelchair. Nara is seen accusing Thidaporn, who plays the role of her mother of noble background, of stealing her clothes.

The wheelchair and the reference to Thidaporn’s noble character were deemed to have pointed to a royal family member currently in a wheelchair.

Lazada issued an apology today, saying that what happened was an “unacceptable mistake” and a “result of our oversight.”

Nara explained on Facebook live that she had no intention to mock people with disabilities or the sick.

In producing the controversial clip, she claimed that no one was told whom they should look like and that there are thousands of people in wheelchairs, or wearing traditional Thai costumes, but someone tried to link the person in wheel chair featured in the clip to a certain individual.

To prove her sincerity, the influencer also posted that she had donated 100,000 baht to an association for people with disabilities in Saraburi province.

Political activist Srisuwan Janya, known for having filed petitions against several people especially politicians and other activists, warned today that he may file complaint with the police against Lazada for alleged lèse majesté and violation of the Computer Crime Act for allegedly mocking the royal family.

Kla party leader Korn Chatikavanij, meanwhile, said that this controversy reminds him of the Digital Services Act (DSA) of the European Union, which was approved on April 22nd.

Korn said that the law, in essence, holds online platforms, such as Facebook and Lazada, accountable for all the advertisements and texts which appear on them which, he noted, is more stringent than the same law in the United States.

Also, he said the DSA can be used to force the platforms to disclose the algorithm used to screen and disseminate the information.

The former finance minister said it is about time that there was a similar law in Thailand, as the existing laws cannot keep pace with the advance of technology, adding that, even if free expression is recognised under a democratic system, its use must not infringe on the right of privacy.