Police arrest Foodpanda rider, charge him with insulting king

A food deliveryman who became a cause celebre after his employer threatened to fire him was under police interrogation this morning after being arrested and charged with royal defamation.

A 25-year-old man seen burning a royal portrait at Sunday’s protest was taken from his home in northern metro Bangkok last night and charged with royal defamation. He was identified only as Sitthichok by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, which said that he was being questioned by Nang Loeng police in Bangkok’s old quarter as of 10am on Tuesday.

Sittichok faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted under Section 112 of the penal code, a crime known as lese majeste.He’s also been charged with violating the emergency pandemic decree which has been in place since March 2020 and currently prohibits gatherings larger than five. 

Sittichok was released late Tuesday on a bond of THB100,000.

He joined a Sunday protest near the Government House where hundreds of people calling for the resignation of PM Prayuth Chan-o-cha were met with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. Sittichok was later seen burning a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn at the site before departing on a motorcycle bearing a Foodpanda delivery box.

Foodpanda drew a fierce backlash by responding to a government supporter’s complaint by vowing to track him down and fire him that evening for violating company policies on “terrorism.” It walked that threat back Monday in an apology that pinned the blame on an insubordinate social media staffer. In its apology, the company was still looking to identify the rider.

“[W]e are still trying to find out the identity of the rider. … [F]oodpanda assures freedom of speech and expression is not terrorism and the rider will not be dismissed due to this incident.”

Delivery Hero, Foodpanda’s parent company in Berlin, has not responded to requests for comment.

Update: This story has been updated with the latest on the man’s being released on bail.

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