Thai army leads boycott of shopping website that ‘insulted’ monarchy with advert

·2-min read
File Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (L) is accompanied by Thai Queen Suthida (R) during a religious ceremony (EPA)
File Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (L) is accompanied by Thai Queen Suthida (R) during a religious ceremony (EPA)

Thailand’s army is boycotting a Singapore-based ecommerce website after its promotional video allegedly mocked the country’s royal family.

The army, which deemed the advert by Lazada as "offensive to the monarchy", banned 245,000 members of the Thai military from using the services and allowing delivery vehicles inside army premises with immediate effect.

Thailand has strict lese majeste laws which ban the citizens from defaming, insulting or threatening King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the queen, heir or regent. The offence could invite up to 15 years of jail term for each offence.

A probe has been ordered in the case with minister of Digital Economy and Society Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn saying that the government is considering legal action against the advertising agency responsible for the video, and against Lazada.

The advert came to the army’s notice after citizens loyal to the king complained about a TikTok video that promoted a Lazada sale on 5 May. Concerns were raised regarding a woman who featured in a traditional Thai costume sitting in a wheelchair that was deemed as a veiled reference to a member of a royal family.

It was believed that it allegedly appeared to depict the king’s sister, Princess Chulabhorn, who uses a wheelchair because of an autoimmune disease known as Lupus.

Army spokeswoman Colonel Sirichan Ngathong said in a statement the video was “offensive to the monarchy” and “caused disunity in Thai society”.

“The army now has a policy to ban all army units and army-related activities from ordering merchandise from Lazada platform or delivering things from Lazada,” Ms Sirichan said.

Lazada, the Southeast Asian unit of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, had apologised for the video and pulled the commercial after some royalist groups also demanded a social media campaign to force users to uninstall the platform’s app, The Nation reported Monday.

The e-commerce giant based in Singapore is one of South East Asia’s biggest online retailers.

It incident represents latest example of growing debate over Thai monarchy’s role in society which triggered unprecedented called by outh-led protesters for changes to strict laws that have stringent punishment for those deemed to be insulting the monarchy.

Clashes between royalists and pro-democracy politicians have led to instability in the Southeast Asian country, which has witnessed two coups, military rule and violent street protests.

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