Sit hits the fan in Thai movie theater

Men charged for not standing during anthem

At most movie theaters around the globe, patrons can be forgiven for ignoring the preshow ads, trailers and announcements.

Not so in Thailand, where every screening is preceded by the King’s Anthem, a song honoring King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Two Thai men are facing charges of lese majeste — or “insult to royalty” — for refusing to stand for the anthem. They face up to 15 years in jail if convicted.

The two men, Chotisak Onsoong and an unidentified friend, were in court April 22 in the wake of a September 2007 incident at SF Central World, a posh multiplex in central Bangkok, in which a man in the audience began shouting abuse and throwing objects when Onsoong and his friend failed to rise for the anthem.

Onsoong says police told him that if he pressed charges against the antagonist, identified only as Navamitr, the man would press lese majeste charges.

Onsoong asserts that standing for the anthem before a movie is just a tradition, and that he has the right not to do so. He insists he didn’t break any law.

A group of activists has set up an online petition of support. In it, they express disagreement with “the use of lese majeste law to prohibit the individual’s freedom of expression.”

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