A 57-year-old housewife from Thailand is facing a military tribunal and seven years imprisonment over a photograph of her posing with a red bucket, which is adorned with messages from former prime ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra.
The bucket, which is used to splash water during the mid-April Songkran festival, is signed by the Shinawatra siblings.
“The situation may be hot, but brothers and sisters may gain coolness from the water inside this bucket,” it reads.
Theerawan Charoensuk posted a photo of herself smiling with the bucket to Facebook. Upon discovering the image, police ordered that she attend military court for her rebellious actions. Nateephat Akarapongthiti from Chiang Mai’s Mae Ping police station clarified, “She was charged with section 116 — inciting chaos in the country.”
Military leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha defended the hostile response from authorities, claiming the charge was a suitable reply to a national security threat. Prayuth stated, “You have to see: the photo is about a man who broke the law… Isn’t support for a person who broke the law and ran away from the criminal case a wrong thing to do?”
Meanwhile, critics of the regime such as Human Rights Watch senior Thailand researcher Sunai Phasuk denounced the harsh reaction, saying “This new level of absurdity shows intolerance even to the slightest form of political dissent. The junta has passed a threshold in which no one knows where this is going to lead.”
The arrest comes as the junta clamps down on political expression ahead of a controversial referendum on 7 August, where authorities hope to pass the heavily criticised draft constitution. Many feel the document will enshrine military influence while doing little to resolve Thailand’s political turmoil.
Mish Khan is Associate Editor of New Mandala and a third-year Asian studies/law student. This article is part of her Southeast Asian snapshots series.