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Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun watches the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony in central Bangkok, Thailand, May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha


BANGKOK (Reuters) - A 14-year-old boy, along with 8 others, have been charged with royal defamation, a police officer in Khon Kaen province told Reuters on Friday.

The nine suspects were allegedly involved in setting fire to portraits of Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in several spots around the northeastern province of Khon Kaen in May.

If the juvenile court in Khon Kaen province accepts the case, it could become the first royal defamation case in the country for a person under the age of 15.

Royal defamation under article 112 of the criminal code, also known as lese-majeste, is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

The Thai military government has taken a hardline stance against suspected transgressors of the royal defamation law since coming to power in a 2014 coup.

The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej last October has also heightened sensitivities to any perceived negative comment or action against the much revered monarch.

The nine suspects also face other charges, including arson, destruction of public property, and criminal association, according to the Phon district attorney office in Khon Kaen who is responsible for the prosecution.

Lese-majeste laws have an impact on what any news organisation, including Reuters, can report about issues relating to Thailand's monarchy.

(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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