LINE, stickers, lese majeste and cultural mandates

Go to jailKhaosod reports that the Japanese company behind the LINE chat application, widely used in Thailand, has “apologized for briefly selling a set of cartoon ‘stickers’ that lampoon the royal family.”

Note that the Khaosod report is heavily censored: “To avoid potential legal action, Khaosod English is withholding other information about the stickers.”

The company “pulled the ‘stickers’ from its online store, and on the same day that police announced an investigation into the persons responsible for the artwork on a charge of insulting the monarchy.” That is, the cops are after more lese majeste charges.

The “offending” stickers “went on sale for 30 baht on Line store Wednesday evening. Although Line vets stickers before publishing them, the set apparently managed to slip through the censor because of its innocuous-looking cartoon theme and subtle references only known by those among the Thai anti-monarchy faction.” Apparently royalists and the police are also aware of so-called subtle references.”

The Guardian stated: “Most of the emojis referenced scandals and rumours that have trailed the monarchy despite efforts to control its image inside Thailand…. Other more benign stickers showed royals partaking in hobbies often publicised by the palace’s media arm, such as [the king] playing a saxophone.”

The company came up with a somewhat ambiguous message that buys into royalist repressive discourses:

LINE Corporation is aware of the culturally sensitive sticker set that may have caused discomfort among our users in Thailand. The sticker set in question has been pulled from the LINE Sticker Shop…. As we take our users concerns seriously and consider cultural aspects of each country, we will continue to improve our LINE Creators Market.

This comment about the monarchy being “culturally sensitive” is a royalist construction of recent years. This claim has been used to suggest that “foreigners” cannot understand the monarchy and to damn Thais who are anti-monarchy for being not adhering to these cultural mandates. There’s another point on this: fear. Because of the draconian lese majeste laws, no one in Thailand is prepared to openly defy the cultural mandates. Fear is translated to “sensitivity,” even by police investigators, according to comments in a Reuters report where a senior policeman “declined to say more due to the sensitivity of the issue.”

This doesn’t prevent them from “investigating” the “dangerous” stickers. Police say: “We are investigating where the stickers came from and who did this…”. Given the political nature of Article 112, recent huge sentences and deaths in custody, we can only hope they fail to identify anyone.

%d bloggers like this: