Foreign tourists were found behind damage to a royal insignia flag in the northern resort town of Pai on Monday.
The insignia flag, along with the Thai national flag, was found crumpled on the ground close to Pai River earlier this morning – a sight that reportedly angered some residents in the town. But police said the tourists had merely been acting playfully without intent to cause disrespect.
“It was farangs. They walked along the street, took the flagpoles and marched around like in a parade,” Pai Police Station chief Saman Chitboon said by phone. “After that, they laid the flags down on the ground.”
He said the entire incident was captured on a security camera. Saman did not identify the tourists by name or nationality.
Both the tricolor flag and symbols related to the Royal Family are generally treated with utmost respect in Thailand. A royal defamation law criminalises any action deemed negative toward the monarchy with a maximum jail term of 15 years. In this case police appear to be taking a very measured approach.
Some Pai locals told the media they believe the tourists who manhandled the flags – originally decorating a bridge across Pai River – should face tough punishment or deportation.
But Col. Saman said the foreign tourists would face a fine at most.
“They had no intent to insult anything,” the policeman said.
In January, an American tourist was briefly detained by police in Krabi province after he tore down a royal flag on a beach. The tourist, 22-year-old Justin Thomas, was later let off with a warning; police said he wanted to keep the flag as a souvenir.