Thai man jailed for 30 years for ‘in­sult­ing’ roy­als on Face­book

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

A Thai man was jailed for 30 years on Fri­day for “in­sult­ing” the monar­chy on Face­book, in one of the tough­est known sen­tences passed un­der the jun­taruled king­dom’s dra­co­nian lese ma­jeste law.

Thai King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej, 87, is pro­tected by one of the world’s strictest royal defama­tion rules un­der which any­one con­victed of in­sult­ing the king, queen, heir or re­gent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.

On Fri­day Bangkok’s Mil­i­tary Court found Pongsak Sri­boon­peng, 48, guilty of post­ing mes­sages and pic­tures de­fam­ing the monar­chy in six posts on the so­cial net­work­ing web­site.

He was sen­tenced to 10 years on each count with the 60- year jail term halved af­ter he pleaded guilty, his lawyer Sasi­nan Tham­nithi­nan told AFP.

“It’s bro­ken the record,” she said about the se­vere jail term, adding that be­cause Pongsak was ar­rested while Thai­land was still un­der mar­tial law there was no right to ap­peal the sen­tence passed by the mil­i­tary court.

Lese ma­jeste con­vic­tions have surged since Thai­land’s gen­er­als seized power from an elected gov­ern­ment in May 2014.

Ac­cord­ing to iLaw, a lo­cal rights group that mon­i­tors such cases, there were just two on­go­ing pros­e­cu­tions for royal defama­tion be­fore the coup. Now that num­ber is at least 56.

Crit­ics of the law say it has been used as a weapon against po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies of the roy­al­ist elite and their mil­i­tary al­lies and now tar­gets those op­posed to the coup.

In another con­vic­tion this week a mil­i­tary court in the north­ern province of Chi­ang Rai sen­tenced a man with a history of men­tal ill­ness to five years in jail for lese ma­jeste.

Samak Pan­tay, 48, was found guilty on Thurs­day of slash­ing a por­trait of the king and queen in July last year, lawyer Anon Numpa said.

“He con­fessed to the charge so the judge com­muted the sen­tence to five years,” he said, adding that Samak has been med­i­cally cer­ti­fied as men­tally sick for “more than 10 years.”

Thai­land’s ul­tra- roy­al­ist gen­er­als have long used their self­ap­pointed po­si­tion as de­fend­ers of the monar­chy to jus­tify coups and po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ven­tions in the coun­try’s of­ten tur­bu­lent pol­i­tics.

But both Thai and in­ter­na­tional media must heav­ily self­cen­sor when cov­er­ing l ese ma­jeste and the monar­chy — even re­peat­ing de­tails of charges of per­ceived defama­tion of­fences could mean break­ing the law.

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