Tik Tok video featuring a transgender influencer joking with a disabled person in a wheelchair sparks fury across Thailand from royalists who claim the skit targeted the monarchy and was deeply offensive to both the institution and the disabled.
Formal police complaints have been lodged with the Technology Crime Suppression Division of the Royal Thai Police against online retailing giant Lazada and an advertising agency in Bangkok concerning a Tik Tok video which appeared on the internet last week, roiling royalists and the disabled when a young woman in a wheelchair was featured on the transgender activist’s channel in a skit that appeared to target the royal institution. The advertisement, which has led to public calls on Twitter for Lazada to be banned in Thailand, also brought condemnation from the Royal Thai Army which announced on Monday that the shopping application was prohibited within the force and that its delivery vehicles would be banned from army controlled precincts.
Southeast Asia’s largest online retailer, Lazada has landed itself in hot water in Thailand with several complaints filed with police on Monday over a social media advertising campaign that critics allege mocked the disabled and targeted Thailand’s revered monarchy.
On Monday also, the Royal Thai Army Commander-in-chief, General Narongphan Jitkaewtae was reported to have issued an order prohibiting the use of the shopping application by all military units and banning delivery vehicles associated with Lazada from entering military bases or any properties under the control of military authorities.
Army chief leads calls to ban Lazada shopping app at nationwide teleconference on Monday with top brass
A deputy spokesperson for the military, Police Colonel Sirichan Nga-thong, told the press that the order had come in a teleconference between the army commander and officers throughout Thailand organised to plan the army’s programme to support the reopening of schools in Thailand and its efforts to vaccinate recruits.
The announcement was also published on the army commander’s Facebook social media account on Monday.
It made it clear that this was an organised campaign against Lazada which has been declared unwelcome by the military in the kingdom.
The notice said that the move was in response to an advertising campaign which was in poor taste and threatened to cause division among the people.
‘It is an expression of intention to protect the institution and impose a social measure against an organisation that engaged in improper conduct and caused disunity in Thai society,’ Police Colonel Sirichan explained.
She said the advertisement had deeply hurt many people and was offensive to the monarchy.
Video aired on the Tik Tok channel of transgender influencer Nara Crepe Katoey contracted by an advertising agency in Bangkok for a Lazada event
The advertisement concerned was a video feature on the Tik Tok channel of transgender influencer Aniwat Prathumthin who is more widely known as Nara Crepe Katoey.
Nara Crepe Katoey made the news in January in Thailand when she donated ฿10,000 ($300) to another transgender person or ladyboy who was forced to get a haircut after pressure from her family, to buy a wig.
The advertisement campaign was created to promote a shopping festival promotion on the 5th May 2022 launched by the Singapore based online retailing giant which is owned by the Chinese Alibaba Group.
The promotional video was the brainchild of Intersect Design Factory, an internet marketing agency based in the Chatuchak area of Bangkok.
It is understood that Ms Nara was contracted by the agency to undertake the performance where she was filmed joking with a woman in a wheelchair identified as Ms Thidarat Chaokuwiang.
The pair were seen joking and play acting with each other in the short video.
However, the outfit worn by Ms Thidarat, her expressions and some of the references and contexts contained in the video’s verbal exchanges were interpreted by many online viewers as both offensive to the disabled in the country and also to the Thai monarchy.
Apologies from Lazada and Bangkok agency as Digital Economy and Society Ministry files police charges
It is understood that Lazada has already removed the online content and both the online retailer and the marketing firm have issued an apology to Thai audiences for the campaign.
However, this has not tamed the backlash with some royalists and activists on Monday filing police complaints alleging that the video breached Thailand’s strict and draconian Lèse-majesté legal provision which makes such actions, even without explicit intent, a criminal offence which can see those convicted jailed for 15 years for each separate offence under the law.
On Monday, a spokesperson for the Digital Economy and Society Ministry, Ms Noppawan Huajaiman, told the media that Minster Chaiwut Thanakhamanusorn had instructed officials to collect evidence linked with the case with a view to filing a complaint with the Technology Crime Suppression Division of the Royal Thai Police.
Ms Noppawan said she expected a formal complaint would be made by Monday evening.
‘The case will serve as an example for other businesses that this type of advertising is divisive to society,’ she told reporters.
Last Friday, in its apology for the video, Lazada appeared to accept fault and the criticism of the promotional spot.
It described the incident as an ‘unacceptable mistake’ caused by a lack of oversight.
‘We fully recognize that the content was hurtful and demeaning to human dignity. As soon as we became aware of the incident, we immediately demanded the post to be taken down,’ the online retailer said in a statement distributed to the media. ‘Our brand does not condone the mockery of others including those with disabilities. It is absolutely unacceptable and a breach of Lazada’s value of being respectful and inclusive.’
Verbal exchanges in the skit and outfit worn by the wheelchair based actor Ms Thidarat caused offence
The video created a stir of protest over the last week where many viewers noted the distinctive outfit worn by Ms Thidarat.
This led to outrage on Twitter where the hashtag #banlazada began trending.
Government House spokesman, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, told reporters on Monday that he was personally saddened by watching the short video.
He said that those involved in the media and advertising industries should think carefully before introducing such divisive and harmful content.
On Monday, Police Colonel Siriwat Deepor of the Technology Crime Suppression Division said he was coordinating with the Digital Economy and Society Ministry and confirmed that complaints about the advertisement campaign had already been filed.
One of these complainants was well known Thai constitutional activist Srisuwan Janya who accused those involved of mocking both the disabled and the Thai monarchy.
Mr Srisuwan said they had breached the Lèse-majesté law and must be called to account.
Similar sentiments were also expressed by Arnon Klinkaew of a group dedicated to protecting the monarchy who said that his organisation had also filed complaints against all parties involved.
He said the advertisement had broken with ethical norms of the advertising industry and was illegal.
He suggested the industry must adhere to creating content that was moral, legal and responsible.
Lazada huge in Southeast Asia except for Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. Looking at westward growth
Lazada was created in 2012 by German businessman and entrepreneur Maximilian Bittner with the support of a Berlin-based Rocket Internet with warehouses in Singapore supplying products at low prices throughout Southeast Asia.
Since then, the firm has been involved in numerous investments and buyouts with billions of dollars being invested by the Alibaba Group after initial investment by other backers including Tesco, JP Morgan Chase and Temasek Holdings.
The firm, with tens of thousands employed, serves all of Southeast Asia except for Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and East Timor.
Recently, there have been reports of plans by Lazada to target European and Western markets with its distinctive style of online retailing combining low costs, ease of use and delivery with an emphasis on high-quality brands powered by imaginative marketing which, somehow, this week in Thailand, has become unstuck leaving it facing a storm of protest across the kingdom.