April 7, 2016
BANGKOK (AFP) - A set of emoticons satirising Thailand's royal family have been removed by the messaging application Line, in a country where discussion of the monarchy is tightly controlled by a draconian royal insult law.
Cached webpages of Line's "sticker store" seen by AFP on Thursday show the set of cartoon images was available at 1700 GMT on Tuesday, but have now been deleted.
Thailand's lese majeste legislation is the one of the world's harshest, carrying a 15 year jail sentence per offence.
It specifically outlaws criticism of the king, queen and his anointed successor, but is broadly interpreted to silence even tangential references members of the family and the institution.
Most of the stickers referenced scandals and rumours that have trailed the monarchy despite efforts to control its image inside the kingdom.
Other more benign stickers showed royalty partaking in hobbies often publicised by the palace's media arm, such as the King Bhumibol Adulyadej playing a saxophone.
Line, the most popular messaging platform in Thailand similar to Whatsapp or Viber, and the ministry of information did not immediately respond to requests to comment.
Japan-owned Line has its own animated stickers that users can send each other, but also allows people to make their own and sell them through its online store.
The royal family stickers were user created by a user, not the company.
On its website, Line says it "reviews (sticker) submissions against our sales criteria" before they go live.
Lese majeste prosecutions have sky-rocketed under the ultra-royalist junta that seized power in a 2014 coup, with many Thais targeted for social media postings deemed defamatory.
The royal family has become an increasingly sensitive topic as the hospital bound 88-year-old Bhumibol, the world's longest reigning monarch, enters his twilight years.