The crime of insulting a king sounds like a medieval holdover—but in Thailand, an unkind word about King Bhumibol Adulyadej can land you in prison for 15 years. The country's recent political upheaval has coincided with a spike in accusations of maligning the monarch, the Wall Street Journal reports—and everyone from opposition politicians to foreign journalists to unwitting moviegoers has been targeted.
The deeply revered monarch says he finds the law outdated and unnecessary, but pro- and anti-government forces routinely use the statute to attack each other. Slights can be trifling: a BBC correspondent faced investigation after the king's picture appeared below another politician's on a BBC website. One official facing jail for the crime called it “the ultimate weapon in Thai society.”