Mum indicted over one-word ‘royal slur’
THE mother of a prominent student activist has been charged by a Thai military court with royal defamation over a one-word Facebook message in what rights groups have described as a new low for the junta’s crackdown on dissent.
Patnaree Chankij, 40, was initially arrested in May by Thai police for violating Thailand’s severe royal defamation law, which bans disparaging the monarchy with up to 15 years in prison on each count.
Her lawyers say the charge stems from writing “ja” – the Thai equivalent of “yeah” – in response to a private Facebook message from someone else that allegedly insulted the royal family.
The case has been seized upon by activists as a terrifying example of how the military authorities have broadened their interpretation of the crime to include even vague references to the monarchy.
Police eventually dropped the charges after an outcry but they forwarded the case to prosecutors from the military who have pressed ahead with it.
“A military court today accepted the case filed by the military prosecutor,” lawyer Anon Nampa said on August 1, adding that his client was granted bail.
Use of both the lese majeste law and military courts has skyrocketed since
former army chief turned Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha seized power in May 2014 sparking international condemnation, including from the United Nations.
Record-breaking 25- and 30-year sentences have since been handed down for people over Facebook posts while a man even found himself arrested for making sarcastic comments about the king’s late dog. –