Thailand arrests US citizen for 'insult to monarchy'

image captionThe lese-majeste law provides protection to the monarchy from defamation, insult or threat

An American citizen of ethnic Thai descent has been arrested in Thailand for allegedly insulting the monarchy.

The US embassy in Bangkok has confirmed the arrest of an American citizen.

The 54-year-old man is reportedly accused of posting on his blog a link to a book about the royal family that is banned in Thailand.

Thailand's strict lese-majeste law prohibits any criticism of the monarchy. Offences are punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Police investigators contacted by the BBC refused to give any details of the charges because, they said, of the sensitivity of the case.

An unnamed official at Thailand's Criminal Court said bail was denied during a hearing on Thursday.

"He was charged with lese-majeste, subversion and uploading or linking to false information under the Computer Crime Act," the official was quoted by AFP as saying.

The Thai-language news website - one of whose editors also faces lese-majeste charges - has reported that the detainee was born in Thailand but lived in the US state of Colorado for 30 years.

Internet under scrutiny

The lese-majeste law provides protection from defamation, insult or threat to the King, the Queen, the heir to the throne or the Regent.

But free speech advocates say the law is being misused to silence legitimate debate, says the BBC's Rachel Harvey in Bangkok.

They point to the dramatic increase in the number of cases since a military coup in 2006.

This month alone, charges have been brought against a Thai academic who has publicly called for reform of the monarchy, and a prominent opposition politician, who is also a leader of the anti-government "red-shirt" movement.

Our correspondent says the internet is coming under particular scrutiny from the authorities with around 2,000 web addresses being blocked by state censors for containing links or references deemed offensive to the monarchy.

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