A Crucial Question in Thailand’s Election: Can You Criticize the King?

When Thais go to the polls on Sunday, they will be voting in a closely fought election that is seen, in part, as a referendum on whether it is illegal to criticize the Thai monarchy.

Thailand has one of the world’s strictest laws against defaming or insulting the king and other members of the royal family. Once considered taboo, the topic of the monarchy was brought to the forefront after tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets and called for checks on the institution’s power in 2020.

The protests represented two sides of an impassioned struggle to determine the role of the crown in modern Thailand. The election could determine whether the Southeast Asian nation of 72 million will revive its once-vibrant democracy or slide further toward authoritarian rule, with royalists firmly in power.

On one side of the debate are conservative political parties whose standard-bearer is Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the general who has governed Thailand for nine years after…

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This article was written by Sui-Lee Wee and Muktita Suhartono and originally published on www.nytimes.com