Thailand bans old edition of Marie Claire for insulting monarchy

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand banned imports and sales of a six-month-old edition of women’s magazine Marie Claire on Friday over an article it said carried content insulting to its royal family and offensive to its people.

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Criticism of Thailand’s monarchy is outlawed by draconian lese majeste laws that can bring jail sentences of up to 15 years for each perceived insult.

An announcement in the Royal Gazette, signed by Thailand’s police chief, said an article in the November 2015 edition of Marie Claire in France was defamatory and malicious to the royal family, affecting “national security, peace and order and the morale of the people”.

The order said any copies found would be confiscated and destroyed.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88, is revered among Thais and concerns over his health and succession have formed the backdrop to more than a decade of political crisis in the country.

The king has been staying at a Bangkok hospital since May 2015 and news about his health is tightly controlled by the palace.

Thailand’s government is highly sensitive about discussion of its paramount institution and self-censorship is prevalent, including by local distributors and printers of international publications.

Distributors of the Economist have several times refused to deliver some editions with content about the palace to subscribers in the country. In December, the International New York Times appeared in Thailand with a blank space instead of a story about the royal family’s wealth.

Prosecutions for insults to the monarchy have risen rapidly and sentences have become increasingly harsh under a royalist military government that seized power in a 2014 coup.

Thai police were on Thursday investigating stickers lampooning the royal family which appeared briefly on the popular Japan-based Line instant messaging service.

Line apologized for the set of cartoon stickers and said it was no longer available to purchase.

Reporting by Pairat Temphairojana; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Hugh Lawson