Celebrity internet royalist arrested for fundraising fraud

Celebrity internet royalist Suvinai Pornavalai was arrested outside his Bangkok home yesterday.

Members of the cybercrime unit came calling after Suvinai claimed to have raised nearly 700,000 baht (US$20,000) to pay for “a ritual” to extend the life of Princess Bajrakitiyabha, who remains hospitalised for an unspecified heart condition.

Suvinai Pornavalai | Prachatai English
The high-profile monarchist was arrested hours after he was accused of “publishing false information” during a brief fundraiser. Suvinai was spared the more serious charge of royal defamation.

According to rabble-rousers Prachatai.com, Suvinai maintains his innocence and claims to have been acting out of goodwill for the princess.

Suvinai’s problems began when he made a curious statement to his 52,000 followers on Friday, asserting that the retired economics lecturer was in communication with “supernatural entities,” and could harness their power to intervene on behalf of the 44-year-old princess.

Pol Maj Gen Wiwat Khamchamnan, head of the cybercrime unit, said…

“He said he didn’t have any ill intention. He was merely saying that, since science cannot help, he has to rely on rituals.”

What he needed, he wrote, is money to cover the very high costs involved in communing with divine entities. Suvinai wrote..

“This mission really exceeds my current financial capacity to see it through smoothly.”

As an economist, Suvinai was careful to include details of his bank account at the end of his post.

Suvinai then began a running commentary of his occult activities. Hours later, he reported that the first of his three rituals had commenced, paid for from the “close to 700,000 baht” donated so far.

In the period between the first post asking for donations and the commencement of Suvinai’s rites, the royalist appears to have taken some legal advice rather than listening to paranormal voices. He said he had decided to end the fundraising, per advice from “someone close to him.”

But that did not stop police from paying a visit.

Many social media users shared his post and speculated as to whether the rituals amounted to making a quick buck from a national tragedy, preying on the public’s love for the princess and distress over her health.

Suvinai was taken to a police station and told he may be charged with defrauding the public, along with violating the Computer Crimes Act.

Pol Maj Gen Wiwat, cybercrime unit commander, said that anyone who donated the money can get it back by contacting the police, adding…

“I’d like to ask the public to be careful when posting anything that may defame the high institution at this time,”

While the celebrity internet royalist was arrested, it is not clear what charges, if any, were eventually filed.

Princess Bajrakitiyabha collapsed during a military dog training event in Nakhon Ratchasima earlier this week, according to the palace.

Her highness remains hospitalised at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital in Bangkok. The palace has said little about the nature of her illness, and it is unclear whether she has regained consciousness.

The princess is the only child of King Vajiralongkorn from his first marriage to Princess Soamsawali. Princess Bha, as she is affectionately known, is a commander in the royal bodyguard unit, and is recognised by many as the next-in-line for the throne, though the decision to name an heir rests with the King.

Mystery as Thai King's daughter Princess Bajrakitiyabha collapses after 'sudden heart condition while jogging with dogs' | The Sun
As an athletic and active member of the Royal Family Princess Bha’s sudden illness came as a shock to many Thais.
Celebrity internet royalist arrested for fundraising fraud | News by Thaiger
As a reflection of the princess’ popularity and official concern for her condition, the Ministry of Interior Affairs on Friday evening instructed all provinces to hold religious ceremonies to wish Princess Bha a speedy recovery.


Thailand News

Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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