Girl sentenced for posting audio clips to Fb and YouTube with feedback deemed essential of the monarchy.
A court docket in Thailand has sentenced a former civil servant to a report jail time period of 43 years and 6 months for breaching the nation’s strict regulation on insulting or defaming the monarchy.
The Bangkok Felony Courtroom on Tuesday discovered the lady responsible on 29 counts of violating the nation’s lese-majeste regulation for posting audio clips to Fb and YouTube with feedback deemed essential of the monarchy, the Thai Attorneys for Human Rights group mentioned.
The sentence, which comes amid a unbroken protest motion that has seen unprecedented public criticism of the monarchy, was swiftly condemned by rights teams.
“Right this moment’s court docket verdict is surprising and sends a spine-chilling sign that not solely criticisms of the monarchy received’t be tolerated, however they may even be severely punished,” mentioned Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch.
Violating Thailand’s lese-majeste regulation – broadly referred to as Article 112 – is punishable by three to fifteen years’ imprisonment per depend. The regulation is controversial not solely as a result of it has been used to punish issues so simple as liking a publish on Fb but additionally as a result of anybody – not simply royals or authorities – can lodge a grievance that may tie the individual accused up in authorized proceedings for years.
Throughout Thailand’s final 15 years of political unrest, the regulation 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 through 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 mentioned the establishment is unaccountable and holds extreme 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.
‘Unhealthy to worse’
Sunai mentioned Tuesday’s sentence was seemingly 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 hold him throughout the sure of constitutional rule. Thailand’s political tensions will now go from unhealthy to worse,” he mentioned.
After King Maha Vajralongkorn took the throne in 2016 following his father’s demise, he knowledgeable the federal government that he didn’t want to see the lese-majeste regulation used. However because the protests grew final yr, and the criticism of the monarchy obtained harsher, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned a line had been crossed and the regulation could be used.
The protest motion has misplaced steam because the arrests and a brand new restriction on public gatherings that adopted a surge in coronavirus instances.
Thai Attorneys for Human Rights recognized the lady sentenced on Tuesday solely by her first title Anchan and mentioned she was in her mid-60s.
The court docket initially imposed a 87-year jail sentence, however then decreased it by half as a result of she pleaded responsible to the offences.
Her case dates again six years, when anti-establishment sentiment was rising after a 2014 army coup led by Prayuth. She was held in jail from January 2015 to November 2018.
She denied the costs when her case was first heard in a army court docket, the place lese-majeste offences had been prosecuted for a interval after the coup. When her case was transferred to the 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 informed native media on 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] had completed it for thus a few years,” Anchan mentioned. “So I didn’t actually suppose this by means of and was too assured and never being cautious sufficient to understand on the time that it wasn’t acceptable.”
She mentioned 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 army court docket sentenced a person to 35 years in jail for social media posts deemed defamatory to the monarchy.
The person, a salesman, was initially sentenced to 70 years, however had his sentence halved after pleading responsible.