Man Arrested for Selling Duck Calendars that Insulted the Thailand Monarchy

By Hannah Lozada

It was publicly announced on March 7th that Narathorn Chotmankongsin, a 26-year-old attorney, was arrested and sentenced to two years in a Thailand prison after a six-day trial. The conviction came after he had sold satirical duck calendars that insulted King Maha Vajiralongkorn. The yellow ducks represent a symbol of the Thai pro-democracy protest movement which started in 2020.

Years before his recent arrest, a similar event occurred. On December 31st, 2020, police raided his home and seized calendars that contained pictures of yellow ducks. According to the police, these calendars were sold by Chotmankongsin through a protest group on Facebook.

Elaine Pearson, Asia’s director of the Human Rights Watch spoke in an interview.“The prosecution and [two]-year sentence of [Chotmankongsin who sold] satirical calendars shows that Thai authorities are now trying to punish any activity they deem to be insulting the monarchy.” Later into the interview, she states, “…Thailand is moving further away from – not closer to – becoming a rights-respecting democracy.” 

Pearson also states that the Thai police should allow, “…peaceful expression of all viewpoints, including those related to the monarchy. The government should urgently engage with United Nations experts and others about embarking on a process of amending the Lèse-majesté law to bring it into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights obligations.”

Thailand contains some of the world’s strictest laws like Lèse-majesté which, according to the Thai Criminal Code Section 112, states that it is illegal to slander, insult, or threaten the Thailand monarchy. Some penalties make people serve 15 to 43 years in prison for insulting the King. 

Chotmankongsin’s lawyer, Yaowalak Anuphan informed VICE World News that he only delivered the calendars and did not partake in producing or designing them. However, the court still determined the act as slanderous. Anuphan states, “This is part of a larger wave of recent [Section] 112 convictions, and we should expect more to come in the near future.” The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) states that Around November 2020 and June 2022, police charged 215 people with Lèse-majesté. 

Sunai Phasuk, the senior researcher for the Human Rights Watch in Thailand notified VICE World News that, “The imprisonment of Narathorn shows that Thai authorities do not even tolerate anyone who pokes fun at the monarchy.” He continued, “A climate of fear is looming over Thai society, with choking effects on free speech and aspirations for democratic transition.”

Some people have been arrested for other reasons, like ‘mocking’ how the monarchy dresses. For example, people have been arrested for wearing pink dresses that some interpret as mocking the queen. Others were arrested for wearing crop tops to replicate how the king sometimes dresses. Even on social media, if you say anything that is anti-monarchy, then you could be arrested. Near the beginning of 2021, a woman was sentenced to a jaw-dropping 87 years in jail, which was reduced to 43 years after she was found guilty for sharing anti-monarchy clips on social media. 

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