Low-cost airline Thai Vietjet faces a police investigation over an April Fools Day Tweet that an activist lawyer claims insulted Thailand’s king. Thailand has some of the toughest laws in the world against defaming or insulting the monarchy and wrongdoers can be sent to prison for up to 15-years.
So-called Lèse-majesté laws in Thailand (French for ’to do wrongdoing to majesty’) have a wide margin of interpretation and it isn’t always necessary to personally direct an insult at Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn to fall foul of the rules.
On April 1, Vietjet’s official Twitter account published a prank tweet in which it claimed the airline was launching a flight between the Thai province of Nan and Munich in Germany.
The innocent-sounding joke was inferred to be poking fun at the king because he often visits Germany where his Royal Noble Consort Sineenat Wongvajiraphakdi resides. She was born in Nan province.
The king is married to Queen Suthida but he granted royal consort status to Sineenat when he ascended to the throne in 2019.
King Maha is a controversial figure in Thailand where staunch support of the monarchy is usually a given. In Germany, he faces an investigation over whether he failed to pay the correct property and inheritance taxes.
Still, that hasn’t stopped local outage over Vietjet’s ill-thought-out April Fool’s day joke. The airline has been forced to issue a grovelling apology over the incident and the staff who were responsible for sending the tweet have been suspended pending an internal investigation.
Senior managers say they had no idea the tweet was in the works.
The apology didn’t stop prolific complainant and activist Srisuwan Janya from submitting an official police complaint over what he see’s as the tweet’s “intent to offend”.
Srisuwan has submitted as many as 1,000 complaints for alleged breaches of Lèse-majesté laws.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.