BANGKOK — Thai authorities have arrested and charged an anti-government "Red Shirt" sympathiser for allegedly insulting the kingdom's royal family on Facebook, police said Friday.
Wipas Raksakulthai, 37, was arrested at his home in eastern Rayong province on Thursday accused of violating the country's lese majeste legislation with a posting on the social networking website last month.
"Wipas has posted an inappropriate message and breached national security by insulting the monarchy on Facebook on March 19," Thailand's department of special investigations said.
The department's statement said the suspect admitted he was supporter of the Red Shirt movement, which has occupied key areas in the Thai capital in attempt to force snap elections, but he denied insulting the monarchy.
Internet content seen as overtly critical of Thailand's king -- who enjoys a semi-divine status among many citizens -- has been under close scrutiny since the Reds began their campaign in 2006.
More than 6,200 web pages have been removed since 2007 for insulting the Thai royal family, according to officials.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has been a stabilising force during six politically turbulent decades on the throne, has been in hospital since last September.
Anyone can file a lese majeste complaint in Thailand, and police are duty-bound to investigate it.
The Thai government earlier this week accused several members of the Red Shirt movement of attempting to overthrow the monarchy, including two former prime ministers.
Under the Thai criminal code, insulting the monarchy or a member of royal family can result in jail terms of up to 15 years.
The Reds -- who want immediate elections to replace Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's government -- have periodically clashed with security forces during their occupation of sections of the Thai capital over the past month.
Many of the Reds come from Thailand's rural poor and urban working classes and seek the return of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and now lives overseas to avoid a jail term for corruption.
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