BANGKOK (AFP) – The elderly parents of a former Thai princess were taken into police custody Friday after confessing to defaming the kingdom’s royal family, an institution protected by one of the world’s toughest lese majeste laws.
The pair are the latest close relatives of fallen former Princess Srirasmi to face legal proceedings after a corruption scandal involving her family erupted late last year.
Apiruj Suwadee, 72, and his 66-year-old wife Wanthanee, told reporters that they were guilty of defaming the monarchy, lodging a malicious claim and asking officials to file false charges.
“We confess to all charges,” Wanthanee said, her head bowed as she faced the media after a meeting with Thai police.
“We plead for mercy from the royal family,” her husband added, before the couple were detained to face a bail hearing later Friday.
The police case against them centres on a former neighbour’s complaint that she had been jailed for 18 months on a fraud charge brought maliciously by the Suwadee couple.
Thailand’s Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn divorced Srirasmi and she also renounced her royal title following the scandal, which has gripped a public unused to seeing palace intrigue play out in the open.
One of her relatives Pongpat Chayapun, the former head of Thailand’s elite Central Investigation Bureau, has been slapped with a 31-year jail term for a series of convictions linked to an alleged criminal empire that spanned illegal gambling, extortion and kidnapping.
He was initially sentenced to six years in jail in January – along with his deputy – after admitting lese majeste under the feared “section 112” of Thailand’s criminal code and for corruption.
On Thursday he received another 15 years for taking bribes to transfer police to desirable posts and for oil smuggling – adding time to earlier sentences for money laundering and possession of rare wood.