Warning issued after Lazada video flap

Government spokesman urges creators and marketers to be more careful about potentially sensitive content

Employees work at Lazada’s fulfilment warehouse in Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan. The e-commerce company has apologised for an online video promotion that has angered royalists.

Authorities on Saturday warned against the creation of online content that risked insulting the monarchy, after a video by a social media influencer promoting the e-commerce platform Lazada incensed royalists.

“Let us warn marketers, influencers and content creators to be careful about presenting content or promotions that reference appearances or individuals of the institution that all Thais worship and love,” government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said in a statement.

“This is inappropriate, and will not only upset every Thai in the country, but also destroy the image and reputation of the brand. It could also be against the law.”

The video, which has since been taken down, was promoting Lazada’s 5.5 sale and featured a woman dressed in traditional Thai costume sitting in a wheelchair and playing the role of the influencer’s mother.

Royalists complained the woman in the wheelchair was a veiled reference to a royal family member. The video did not use the language used by the royal family, nor mention any of its members.

Under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, it is illegal to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir to the throne or regent. Convictions carry jail sentences of three to 15 years.

Anyone can file a Section 112 complaint against anyone else and police are obliged to investigate it. In the last two years in particular, it has been used mainly against young democracy activists, with some 190 cases now pending before the courts.

In the Lazada promotional videos posted on Facebook, the influencer, Aniwat “Nara” Prathumthin, said the clip was a parody of a famous Thai soap opera and told critics the perceived royal insult was “all in your imagination”.

Lazada apologised for the “emotional damage” the video had caused and said it should have been more careful.

Activist Srisuwan Janya, the most prolific filer of police complaints in the country, has asked the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) to take action against Nara on a charge of breaking Section 112 as well as the Computer Crime Act.

The Lazada incident follows an April Fool’s prank in which a staff member at the budget carrier Thai Vietjet Air created a tweet promoting a new flight route between Thailand and Europe. It also stirred anger among royalists and the airline apologised.

Media experts have urged agencies and brands to be cautious about their online communications and advertisements involving sensitive issues.

The Lazada promotion was the work of Intersect Design Factory, a media agency, which had been assigned to coordinate the production of video clips to promote the May 5 shopping event event through social media and influencers.

The video featuring Nara and a wheelchair-bound woman having fun and joking around with each other drew intense criticism from many people online, including those who believe the outfit worn by the woman in the wheelchair intentionally targeted the royal family.