(BANGKOK) — A court docket in Thailand on Tuesday sentenced a former civil servant to a document jail time period of 43 years and 6 months for breaching the nation’s strict legislation on insulting or defaming the monarchy, legal professionals stated.
The Bangkok Legal Courtroom discovered the girl responsible on 29 counts of violating the nation’s lese majeste legislation for posting audio clips to Fb and YouTube with feedback deemed vital of the monarchy, the group Thai Attorneys for Human Rights stated.
The court docket initially introduced her sentence as 87 years, however decreased it by half as a result of she pleaded responsible to the offenses, the group stated.
The sentence, which comes amid an ongoing protest motion that has seen unprecedented public criticism of the monarchy, was swiftly condemned by rights teams.
“At the moment’s court docket verdict is stunning and sends a spine-chilling sign that not solely criticisms of the monarchy received’t be tolerated, however they will even be severely punished,” stated Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for the group Human Rights Watch.
U.N. Secretary-Common Antonio Guterres believes “it’s crucial that folks be allowed to precise their proper to talk freely,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric stated Tuesday.
Violating Thailand’s lese majeste legislation — recognized broadly as Article 112 — is punishable by three to 15 years’ imprisonment per depend. The legislation is controversial not solely as a result of it has been used to punish issues so simple as liking a submit on Fb but additionally as a result of anybody — not simply royals or authorities — can lodge a criticism that may tie up the particular person accused in authorized proceedings for years.
Throughout Thailand’s final 15 years of political unrest, the legislation has incessantly been used as a political weapon in addition to in private vendettas. Precise public criticism of the monarchy, nonetheless, had till just lately been extraordinarily uncommon.
That modified in the course of the previous yr, when younger protesters calling for democratic reforms additionally issued requires the reform of the monarchy, which has lengthy been considered an virtually sacred establishment by many Thais. The protesters have stated the establishment is unaccountable and holds an excessive amount of energy in what is meant to be a democratic constitutional monarchy.
Authorities at first let a lot of the commentary and criticism go with out cost, however since November have arrested about 50 folks and charged them with lese majeste.
Sunai stated Tuesday’s sentence was doubtless meant to ship a message.
“It may be seen that Thai authorities are utilizing lese majeste prosecution as their final resort measure in response to the youth-led democracy rebellion that seeks to curb the king’s powers and maintain him inside the sure of constitutional rule. Thailand’s political tensions will now go from unhealthy to worse,” he stated.
After King Maha Vajralongkorn took the throne in 2016 following his father’s loss of life, he knowledgeable the federal government that he didn’t want to see the lese majeste legislation used. However because the protests grew final yr, and the criticism of the monarchy bought harsher, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned a line had been crossed and the legislation can be used.
The protest motion has misplaced steam because the arrests and since new restrictions on public gatherings had been applied following a surge in coronavirus instances.
Thai Attorneys for Human Rights recognized the girl sentenced Tuesday solely by her first title Anchan and stated she was in her mid-60s.
Her case dates again six years, when anti-establishment sentiment was rising after a 2014 navy coup led by Prayuth. She was held in jail from January 2015 to November 2018.
She denied the fees when her case was first heard in navy court docket, the place lese majeste offenses had been prosecuted for a interval after the coup. When her case was transferred to legal court docket, she pleaded responsible with the hope that the court docket would have sympathy for her actions, as a result of she had solely shared the audio, not posted or commented on it, she advised native media Tuesday on her arrival at court docket.
“I assumed it was nothing. There have been so many individuals who shared this content material and listened to it. The man (who made the content material) had achieved it for therefore a few years,” Anchan stated. “So I didn’t actually assume this by way of and was too assured and never being cautious sufficient to comprehend on the time that it wasn’t applicable.”
She stated she had labored as a civil servant for 40 years and was arrested one yr earlier than retirement, and with a conviction would lose her pension.
What’s believed to have beforehand been the longest lese majeste sentence was issued in 2017, when a navy court docket sentenced a person to 35 years in jail for social media posts deemed defamatory to the monarchy. The person, a salesman, had initially been sentenced to 70 years, however had his sentence halved after pleading responsible.
Related Press video journalist Tassanee Vejpongsa contributed to this report.