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Thai Police Question British Writer's Wife Over Royal Photos


Police Lt. Gen. Thitiraj Nhongharnpitak, second right, watches Noppawan "Ploy" Bunluesilp, center, wife of British journalist Andrew McGregor Marshall, address the media as she prepares to leave a Bangkok police station on July 22, 2016.

Police raided the Bangkok home of a British journalist's wife and questioned her for several hours Friday in connection with his social media posts containing embarrassing photographs purported to be of Thailand's crown prince, the heir apparent to the throne.

Andrew McGregor Marshall said in a statement that his wife, Noppawan "Ploy'' Bunluesilp, was visiting Bangkok with their 3-year-old son when both of them were taken by police Friday morning to a police station along with Noppawan's father. Armed with a search warrant, police also took computers and several items from the house.

Noppawan, who is Thai, and her father were released about eight hours later.

Her release "is very encouraging news but I remain very concerned that she has faced this ordeal. She is innocent and plays no part in my journalism,'' said Marshall in a statement issued from Hong Kong, where he currently is.

Police Lt. Gen. Thitiraj Nhongharnpitak told reporters that Noppawan had been detained in connection with photos that Marshall had posted on his social media, and which were "deemed inappropriate.'' Under Thailand's strict ``lese majeste'' law, criticism of the monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The photos Marshall tweeted Thursday were published in the German tabloid newspaper Bild and were purportedly of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn at an airport in Germany. The crown prince spends much of his time in Germany.

The prince's father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88, is ailing in a hospital, putting the monarchy under stress as the country considers the prospect of its first royal succession since 1946.

Thitiraj initially said officers had determined that the photos published on Bild's website were doctored, and that Marshall and two Thais, whom he did not name, were responsible for creating and posting fake photos on social media. However, when questioned further by a reporter, he hedged his assertion, saying that "whether or not they were doctored is not important, he should not have posted them in the first place.''

Marshall, who used to be based in Bangkok, is a frequent critic of the Thai monarchy and the military government that has ruled since a 2014 coup. Marshall and his wife have not lived in Thailand since 2011, but he continues to write about the country and is banned from entering it.

Speaking to reporters after it was decided to release Noppawan, Thitiraj said police had always believed her "to be innocent of her husband's crimes, but as police, we must follow the evidence.'' He said Friday's actions gave her the opportunity to prove her innocence.

"She still is Thai and she still respects the Royal institution and she has nothing to do with it,'' he said.

Marshall said Noppawan, 39, who used to work for Reuters and NBC, was not involved in his journalism.

"If Thai police believe that I have broken Thai law they should seek my extradition to Thailand via legitimate international legal challenges. It is unacceptable to harass an innocent woman simply because she is married to me,'' Marshall, who also used to work for Reuters, said in his statement.

Lt. Gen. Thitiraj said police won't issue an arrest warrant for Marshall because he is not in Thailand and the matter would have to be discussed with other nations. He said her hoped Marshall would stop his ``movement'' to criticize the monarchy.

"Andrew is the only foreigner who has consistently criticized the institution for four to five years now, and he hasn't stopped. He is the only one who has consistently attacked the institution.''

Noppawan told reporters after her release that said she had asked her husband to stop his activities because they had an impact on his family.