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ASIA: Thai academic arrested for royal insult

07 Nov 2008 3:23 PM
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BANGKOK, Nov 7 AFPAAP - Thailand's best-known social critic Sulak Sivaraksa has been arrested in Bangkok for insulting the kingdom's monarchy, policesay.

British-educated Sulak, 76, was arrested in connection with a speech he delivered at the north-eastern Khon Kaen university in December last year.

It follows the arrest of Australian author Harry Nicolaides in August also for insulting Thailand's royal family.

The criminal charge of lese-majeste, or insulting the monarchy, carries a maximum 15 years imprisonment.

Sulak "was arrested at his residence early Thursday evening in accordance with a court-approved arrest warrant issued on September 22. He was brought to Khon Kaen immediately", said a Bangkok police spokesman today.

It is not the first time Sulak has been arrested on the charge. In 1984 international protests led to his release after he was taken into custody by authorities.

But he was charged in September 1991 after a lecture he gave at Bangkok's Thammasat University - causing him to flee abroad until he could overturn the charge in 1995.

In an interview with local media last month Sulak said he had been arresteda third time on the same charge but gave no details.

Sulak is well-known abroad as a prominent Buddhist working for human rights, and is a vocal critic of deposed Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

His arrest comes as street protests by opponents of the former prime minister and current government enter their seventh month, and the week before the funeral of the king's sister, who died in January.

Thailand's laws make it illegal to insult the king, who turns 81 on December 5 and who many Thais believe is semi-divine.

In September a Thai court ordered hundreds of websites to be shut down for carrying content disrespectful to the royal family.

That followed the arrest in August of Nicolaides, who is still being held at the Bangkok Remand Centre.

The 41-year-old Nicolaides, who teaches at the Mae Fah Luang University in the northern Thai town of Chiang Rai, is facing one charge of lese-majeste over a comment he made about the king's son in a book he wrote.

The video sharing website YouTube was also banned for five months last yearover videos mocking King Bhumibol Adulyadej until it was agreed filters would be put in place to censor the content.

AFP ss =0A