Miss Thailand
Sophida Kanchanarin of Thailand competes in the evening gown competition during the 2018 Miss Universe pageant in Bangkok. Image Credit: AFP

A popular YouTube presenter is facing charges in Thailand after she criticised a Miss Universe dress that was designed by the daughter of the king.

Wanchaleom Jamneanphol, a popular online TV host, is facing charges under Thailand’s notoriously strict cybercrimes and lese-majeste laws — which make it illegal to say anything negative about the monarchy — for her comments online describing a dress designed by Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana as ugly.

The dress was worn by the Thai entrant, Sophida Kanchanarin, at the 67th Miss Universe pageant which was held in Nonthaburi province, Thailand.

Jamneanphol’s post criticising the design of the couture gown went viral and prompted Thai millionaire businessman and aspiring politician Kitjanut Chaiyosburanato to file charges against her this week.

“I cannot accept that a well-known individual in the online world expressed negative opinions that affect the country’s reputation,” Chaiyosburanato told reporters, describing the post as “irresponsible behaviour”.

The charges were filed and accepted by the Thai police’s technology crime suppression division.

Thailand has some of the strictest lese-majeste laws in the world, punishing anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” who are greatly revered in Thailand and hold considerable power.

The dress was designed by Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, who is the founder and creative director of her own high-end fashion line.

The law, which has been in place since 1908, has been increasingly enforced ever since the Thai military took power in 2014 in a coup, with many people punished with harsh jail sentences. Critics say the law is used to suppress freedom of speech, and campaigners and the United Nations have repeatedly called for it to be amended. The computer crimes laws also strictly control what Thai people can post online and carry equally severe sentences.

Jamneanphol has since deleted the post on Facebook and apologised in a post online, in which she emphasised she “did not have any intention to insult or disrespect the high institution”.

“I merely did not know the full consequences of my actions via my posts and comments, which caused damage to Your Royal Highness and the monarchy,” said Jamneanphol.

Nariratana, who is the only daughter of King Vajiralongkorn and former consort Sujarinee Vivacharawongse, is the founder and creative director of her own high-end fashion line, Sirivannavari. She is often seen on the pages of Tatler and Vogue and is widely described as Thailand’s “most fashionable royal”.