11 July 2024

Thailand’s digital ministry on Wednesday warned Thai users not to break the law on the audio drop-in application Clubhouse, which has rapidly emerged as a platform for discussions of the country’s monarchy.

Thailand has a tough “lese majeste” law against insulting or defaming the country’s king, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and the government regularly uses a cyber crime law to prosecute critics of the monarchy on the grounds of national security. The app was blocked in China earlier this month after a brief window that allowed thousands of mainland users to join in the kind of discussions often censored there.

Some Hong Kong activists in exile have also participated in Clubhouse chats.

Puttipong Punnakanta, Minister of Digital Economy and Society, said authorities have followed Clubhouse usage in Thailand and warned legal action could be taken against those who violate laws.

A large number of Thai users have joined Clubhouse in recent days after Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a prominent Japan-based critic of the Thai palace, started discussing the monarchy, with some of the thousands of listeners chiming in with questions and opinions.

“Political groups and others have used the application to express opinion and give distorted information, create damage, and potentially violate laws,” Puttipong said in a statement.

“Authorities are ready to proceed according to the law, the same as with other social media platforms.”

The minister did not mention whether the government was considering blocking the app.

Thailand has previously cracked down on criticism on platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter of the monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who the country’s constitution says is “enthroned in a position of revered worship”.

The minister’s warning also comes as youth-led, anti-government groups behind months of street protests last year have restarted their rallies, reiterating calls for reforms of the monarchy.