Thai cops question woman who joked she’d stand during royal anthem for money

The now-demolished Scala lobby in July 2020. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok
The now-demolished Scala lobby in July 2020. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok

A 26-year-old woman in Nakhon Sawan said she was visited by the police this week after she joked on social media that she was willing to be hired to stand up during the royal anthem in cinemas.

The woman, who identified herself only as Sawitree due to fear of further backlash, told Coconuts today that she was at her office in the central province of Nakhon Sawan two days ago when cops showed up to question her about a recent Facebook post in which she riffed on news of army cadets being urged to stand when the anthem is played prior to films.

“Police showed up and had documents about me, my photo, my address and my social media pages. They are keeping their eye on me now,” Sawitree said today.

They seemed to have taken seriously a post she says was meant as a joke.

“The police only asked me whether I actually did get money for standing up during the royal anthem, I told them ‘No, I am only joking,’” she added. 

The post in question was from Nov. 12:

“I am open to standing in a movie theater. Standing only for THB300. Standing and singing [royal anthem] for THB500,” it said. “Standing, singing [the royal anthem] and crying for THB1,000. Rates exclude movie tickets.”

It went viral and was shared more than 26,000 shares and spread to other platforms including Twitter, grabbing the authorities’ attention.

She said it was meant as a sarcastic response to a speech last week in which Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s implored young military cadets not to be afraid of paying respect to the royal family at the cinema. Prayuth told his audience to “be brave.”

Calls to Nakhon Sawan Police today went unreturned. 

The longstanding practice of standing during when the anthem is played has faded in the years following the death of King Rama IX, who commanded wide admiration. The recent shattering of decades-old taboo that came with publicly questioning the monarchy’s role in society saw it further erode, and now standing during the anthem is treated as a matter of personal choice.

Amid ongoing protests calling for royal reforms, there’s been a resurgence of prosecutions under the draconian royal insult law, convictions under which are punishable by up to 15 years in prison for anyone deemed to have dissed the monarchy.

Sawitree said that so far no charges have been filed against her. Even so, she added that she’s shaken by the fact that police felt it necessary to go to her office. She has contacted legal rights group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights for advice. 

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, the police are looking for two Twitter users – Redguard1966 and NongKungKing, whose account no longer seemed active as of early Friday afternoon, who shared Sawitree’s post along with their own captions that the authorities may consider out of bounds.

“I also worry about those Twitter users whom the police are looking for,” Sawitree said.

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