A Thai woman who was accused of insulting the country’s late king Bhumibol Adulyadej was forced to kneel before his portrait on Sunday.
The portrait was placed outside a police station on the tourist island of Koh Samui as hundreds of people demanded that she apologized. Two police officers led 43-year-old Umaporn Sarasat to a picture of the late ruler in front of Bophut police station on Samui, where she knelt and prayed, both on the way into the station and the way out.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej died last week after a 70-year reign, plunging Thailand into intense mourning.
The crowd, some of whom held portraits of King Bhumibol high above their heads, jeered when she first appeared. A line of police officers linked arms to keep them from surging forward. According to reports, Sarasat, a small business owner posted disrespectful comments online, and will face charges of insulting the monarchy.
“We are going to proceed with the case as best we can,” District police chief, Thewes Pleumsud said to the crowd. “I understand your feelings. You came here out of loyalty to His Majesty. Don’t worry, I give you my word.” He said
Authorities were urging calm after people posted comments on social media about other people not wearing black and white clothing to mourn the revered leader, with some even going ahead to reprimand people in public. A government spokesman said some Thais could not afford mourning clothes and urged tolerance.
Thailand has draconian lèse-majesté laws that impose stiff prison sentences for actions or writings regarded as derogatory toward the monarch or his family.