Woman gets record 43-year prison sentence for insulting Thai king: “I thought it was nothing”

A courtroom 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 Felony Court docket 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 crucial of the monarchy, the group Thai Attorneys for Human Rights stated.

The courtroom initially introduced her sentence as 87 years, however lowered 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.

“Right this moment’s courtroom verdict is surprising and sends a spine-chilling sign that not solely criticisms of the monarchy will not be tolerated, however they may also be severely punished,” stated Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for the group Human Rights Watch.

Violating Thailand’s lese majeste legislation – recognized broadly as Article 112 – is punishable by three to fifteen years’ imprisonment per rely. The legislation is controversial not solely as a result of it has been used to punish issues so simple as liking a put up on Fb but in addition as a result of anybody – not simply royals or authorities – can lodge a criticism that may tie up the individual accused in authorized proceedings for years.

Throughout Thailand’s final 15 years of political unrest, the legislation has ceaselessly been used as a political weapon in addition to in private vendettas. Precise public criticism of the monarchy, nevertheless, had till just lately been extraordinarily uncommon.

That modified throughout 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 individuals and charged them with lese majeste.

Sunai stated Tuesday’s sentence was probably 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 throughout 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 acquired harsher, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned a line had been crossed and the legislation could be used.

The protest motion has misplaced steam for the reason that arrests and since new restrictions on public gatherings had been applied following a surge in coronavirus circumstances.

Thai Attorneys for Human Rights recognized the girl sentenced Tuesday solely by her first identify 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 courtroom, the place lese majeste offenses had been prosecuted for a interval after the coup. When her case was transferred to prison courtroom, she pleaded responsible with the hope that the courtroom would have sympathy for her actions, as a result of she had solely shared the audio, not posted or commented on it, she informed native media Tuesday on her arrival at courtroom.

“I believed 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 finished it for thus a few years,” Anchan stated. “So I did not actually suppose this via and was too assured and never being cautious sufficient to understand on the time that it wasn’t acceptable.”

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 courtroom 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.

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