Authorities arrested a Thai activist’s mother on May 6 for writing a one-word reply to a Facebook message condemning Thailand’s monarchy.
Thailand police argue 40-year-old Patnaree Chankij’s response, “Yeah,” to 28-year-old Burin Intin’s message insulting the country’s royalty meant she, too, broke the law, The New York Times reports.
Under Thailand’s lese-majeste law, it is illegal to state anything offensive about Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej or his family. Intin was arrested in April 2016 for doing so.
Now Chankij may be facing up to 15 years in jail for responding to him.
Many argue it’s unfair to arrest Chankij, as she didn’t specifically agree with Intin’s statement. “Yeah” could mean she agreed, but it could also indicate she was merely listening.
"The evidence against her is so weak - all they have is the word 'ja' [yes] to accuse her with... we can fight for this case," said Anon Nampha from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, reports ABC News.
It is possible the woman’s son might be making authorities suspicious of her.
Chankij is the mother of student activist Sirawith Seritiwat, also known as Ja New, who was recently placed on bail after a protest landed him in jail.
“She’s never expressed anything politically,” Seritiwat said. “She’s never argued or debated with anyone.”
Nampha adds he believes Chankij is being used as a hostage.
"I think this arrest is political, the target is actually [Ms Patnaree's son] Ja New because he agitates against the coup," the lawyer said.
Yet regardless of her background or whether the “Yeah” was misinterpreted, it seems authorities are adamant to consider her guilty.
“If you share this offending information, you must take responsibility for your act, as well,” Colonel Olarn said. He added even a Facebook “like” could be considered a crime.
The arrest has outraged many human rights groups worldwide.
"The Thai junta has sunk to a new low by charging an activist’s mother under the ‘insulting the monarchy’ law, which has been systematically abused to silence critics,” said Brad Adams, the Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “Prosecuting someone for her vague response to a Facebook message is just the junta’s latest outrageous twist of the lèse-majesté law.”