November 19, 2018 / 4:55 AM / 22 days ago

Thailand protests over U.S. TV show's portrayal of its monarchy

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s foreign ministry on Monday said it had complained to the producers of a U.S. television show, “Madam Secretary”, regarding the portrayal of the country’s monarchy in an episode aired this month.

The Southeast Asian nation has one of the world’s toughest laws concerning insults against its revered monarchy, with violations liable to attract jail terms of up to 15 years. It also affects what news organizations in Thailand, including Reuters, can report on the subject.

A Nov. 4 episode depicts one of the show’s main characters traveling to Thailand for a talk by a speaker who gets arrested for insulting the monarchy.

The fictional U.S. secretary of state in the CBS show also highlights the Thai law on royal insults, saying, “Thailand is a country where free speech doesn’t exist.”

A Thai foreign ministry spokeswoman said it had asked the embassy in Washington D.C. to notify the show’s producers of its concerns over the episode.

“The foreign ministry has asked the Thai embassy in Washington D.C. to convey our concerns on the content of the show’s particular episode, which touches upon Thailand and the monarchy institution,” Busadee Santipitaks told Reuters.

“We lodged a complaint that the producers of the show didn’t consider the sensitivity of the matter.”

Reuters was not immediately able to reach broadcaster CBS to seek comment outside of business hours.

The U.S. embassy in Bangkok did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.

Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Clarence Fernandez

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