Thai Activist Sentenced To 28 Years For Online Posts About King – NPR
BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai court on Thursday sentenced a 27-year-old political activist to 28 years in prison for posting messages on Facebook that it said slandered the country’s monarchy, while two young women accused of the same offense continued to strike hungry after being hospitalized
The court in the northern province of Chiang Rai found that Mongkhon Thirakot violated the lèse majesté law in 14 of the 27 publications for which he was arrested last August. The law covers the current king, queen and his heirs, and any regents.
The lèse majesté law carries a prison sentence of three to 15 years per incident for insulting the monarchy, but critics say it is often used as a tool to crush political dissent. Student-led pro-democracy protests that began in 2020 openly criticized the previously taboo subject of the monarchy, leading to vigorous prosecutions under the law, which had previously been employed relatively infrequently.
Since November 2020, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a legal aid organization, at least 228 people, including 18 minors, have been charged with breaking the law, even as the protest movement has weakened due to arrests and difficulties. to hold protests during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chiang Rai court ruled that 13 posts posted by Mongkhon, an online clothing merchant, did not violate the law because they related to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, father of the current King Maha Vajiralongkorn, or did not mention a specific royal figure. Mongkhon was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison for each of the other 14 posts. The total prison sentence of 42 years was reduced by a third, to 28 years, due to Mongkhon’s cooperation with the court.
Mongkhon has been granted bail while his case is on appeal, on the condition that he does not engage in acts that harm the monarchy or leave the country.
Prosecutions under the lèse majesté law have recently attracted increased public attention due to a prison hunger strike by two activists accused of the offence.
The two, Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon and Orawan “Bam” Phupong, were out on bail but announced earlier this month that they would revoke their own release to return to prison in solidarity with other detainees awaiting trial on the same charge. They issued demands that included the reform of the justice system, the release of political prisoners, and the restoration of civil liberties by repealing laws such as the lese majeste law.
After three days back in prison, they went on a hunger strike in which they are consuming neither food nor liquid, a life-threatening tactic. On Tuesday they were transferred from the prison hospital to a state hospital with better facilities.
As their strike continued, supporters organized small protests.
The opposition Avanza Party, which has been offering its support, has proposed amending the lèse majesté law, but no action has been taken in Parliament.
The proposal would reduce the punishment for defaming the king to a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of up to 300,000 baht ($9,160), while an offense against the queen, the king’s heirs or the regent would be subject to a maximum of six-month imprisonment and a fine of up to 200,000 baht ($6,100).
“The entire Thai justice system has a problem, just like the enforcement of the lèse majesté law, which is also used as a political tool. Thailand has to solve this and improve its distorted justice system,” said Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the party .