Frustrated with the monarchy’s actions -- or inaction -- amid the COVID-19 outbreak, some K-pop fans in Thailand are using memes and lyrics to express their discontent.
On Sunday, the hashtag #Dispatch dominated Thai Twitter for hours as local fans translated a report from a Korean media outlet as to the whereabouts of the king of Thailand.
The online story heavily relies on reporting from the German media, which appears to refer to reporting by German news website Bild.
According to the report, the 67-year-old king of Thailand has taken up to a score of concubines with him and his entourage for self-isolation in Germany.
It was also reported that King Maha Vajiralongkorn has booked out the entirety of the luxury Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl. The four-star hotel boasts a panoramic view of the Alps from the foothills of the mountain range.
“We were surprised that even a news outlet known for dating rumors reported the story. It was a big surprise for Thai K-pop fans, attracting a lot of interest,” one local fan said on condition of anonymity.
Another fan told The Korea Herald, “While we are risking lives with a shortage of medical supplies, he rents a luxury hotel funded by the public’s tax money.”
The king took heat earlier this month after an overseas Thai activist posted that King Maha Vajiralongkorn was traveling in Germany while his country was dealing with the outbreak.
As of Monday, Thailand had reported over 1,500 confirmed cases.
As public frustration grew, some resorted to sarcasm and K-pop references to take a subtle jab at the king in safer ways than directly mentioning his name.
“You make Thai people feel special,” one Twitter user wrote, seemingly referring to the reporting on the Thai king.
The tweet references the chorus of Twice’s 2019 single “Feel Special.”
Another user wrote, “Open your eyes and ears now,” using a line from Korean Netflix series “Kingdom.”
In Thailand, whoever “defames, insults or threatens” the king could face up to 15 years in jail.
In February, a Twitter user was arrested and charged with a cybercrime for posting content critical of the king. The user was identified as a 20-year-old man by the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.
By Yim Hyun-su (email@example.com)