Thailand court sentenced to 43 years for criticism of monarchy

Bangkok – A lifelong civil servant’s crime was to share audio clips on social media that were considered important to Thailand’s monarchy. The sentence, handed down on Tuesday by a Bangkok criminal court, was jailed for over 43 years.

This was the longest sentence ever for violating Thailand’s notoriously strict anti-law, a crime to discredit senior members of the royal family according to the Thai family’s human rights. Aichon Prellert, a former civil servant, was sentenced to 87 years, but her prison term was cut in half as she agreed to plead guilty.

Suna Fasuke, a senior researcher in Thailand for “Human Rights Watch”, said, “Today’s court ruling is shocking and sends a back-chilling signal that not only will the monarchy’s criticisms be tolerated but they are also severely punished Will go. “

According to Thai legal groups, Thailand has been witnessing a spike in Lasse-Majeste cases for more than two years, during which section 112 of the Criminal Code, which applies to criticism of top royals, has not been implemented. Was. According to Prime Minister Prathuth Chan-okha, the three-year break came at the behest of King Maha Vajirlongkorn Bodhindaradevarangkun, who wanted to prevent such lawsuits.

But before a protest movement began last year, both the king and the prime minister were targeted. The protesters, who have gathered at thousands of rallies, have called the royal family one of the world’s wealthiest people under the purview of Thailand’s constitution.

He has sought to examine the finances of the palace, as the king’s lavish lifestyle contrasted sharply with the economic pain caused by the epidemic. And he campaigned to oust former commander Mr. Prathuth, who took power in the 2014 coup, promising to protect the royal family from non-defining threats.

Until last fall, protesters were investigating graffiti on the streets of Bangkok condemning King Maha Wazirlongkorn and his wives and paramour. It was an astonishing development in a country where criticism of the monarchy was usually limited to whispers and innocence, padded with much profanity.

In recent weeks, dozens of Thays, including teenagers and students, have been accused of violating Section 112. Amid the outbreak of coronoviruses in Thailand with massive student-led protests, human rights groups say the government is using the courts to silence some. Of protesters.

“It can be seen that Thai authorities are using the Lèse-Maje prosecution as their last resort in response to youth-led democracy, which would curb the king’s powers and place him within the ambit of constitutional rule Makes an effort. ” . “Thai authorities are trying to use a sledgehammer to slam this genie back into the bottle.”

Other legal mechanisms, including a Computer Crimes Act and a treason law, were deployed against the rogue or disgraced top royals, before the Lasse-Majeste law was revived in November. An obscure section of Thailand’s Criminal Code, “Sentenced to life imprisonment in prison,” creating an act of violence against the Queen’s freedom, applied against first-time protesters who shouted at a royal motorcycle Were.

Section 112 of the Criminal Code provides for a prison sentence or humiliation of three to 15 years to the king or his close relatives. Each charge counts separately, which partially explains why Ms. Anchan’s prison sentence is so long.

The authorities suspended their use of section 112 before the case against Ms. Anchan began.

In 2015, the military janta led by the then General Prathuth detained more than a dozen people, including Ms. Anchan, who were accused of being part of the anti-monarchy network. He was accused of using social media, audio and video recordings viewed as the then king Bhumibol Adulyadej, the father of the current king, who was the longest reigning emperor in the world after his death in 2016. To broadcast.

Bhumibol, popularly known as Rama IX, often carries a lengthy prison sentence. But it is unclear whether his son, who has tightened his grip on the palace’s finances and expanded his military authority, will continue that tradition.

Although some of the people charged with Ms. Anchon were sentenced to speedy prison by a military court, their case was hushed up. Ms Anchen, who worked in the Thai Revenue Department for nearly 30 years, was jailed from 2015 to 2018 while awaiting trial, according to her legal team.

One of Ms. Anchan’s lawyers, Pawani Chumashree, said they were planning an appeal. But Ms. Pawani expected such cases to decline soon.

“The government has announced that they are going to implement law-and-rule law,” she said. “So I think we will see more and more 112 cases and decisions because that is the trend where the government is going.”

Muktata Suhartas contributed reporting.

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