Thai activist sentenced to 28 years after defaming country’s monarchy in Facebook posts

Streaming HUBJanuary 27, 2023

A Thai court sentenced a 27-year-old political activist to 28 years in prison on Thursday for posting messages on Facebook that it said defamed the country’s monarchy, after two young women were hospitalized The hunger strike continued.

The court in the northern province of Chiang Rai found Mongkhon Thirakot violated the Majesty’s Law in 14 of the 27 posts for which he was arrested last August. The law covers the current king, his queen and heirs, and any regents.

The lese majeste law carries a prison sentence of three to 15 years per incident for insulting the monarchy, but critics say it is often used as a tool to stifle political dissent. Student-led pro-democracy protests that began in 2020 openly criticized the monarchy, previously a taboo subject, leading to vigorous prosecutions under the law, which had previously been relatively rarely employed .

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Since November 2020, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a legal aid organization, at least 228 people, including 18 minors, have been accused of violating the law, even arresting and resisting during protests The protest movement backfired due to the difficulties of performing. COVID-19 pandemic.

A Chiang Rai court found that 13 messages posted by Mongkhon, an online clothing merchant, did not violate the law because they related to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, father of current King Maha Vajiralongkorn, or did not mention any specific royal person . Mongkhon was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison for each of the other 14 counts. Due to Mongkhon’s cooperation with the court, the total prison term of 42 years was reduced by a third to 28 years.

Political activist Mongkhon Thirakot gives a three-finger salute in a pro-democracy gesture before going to court in Thailand, January 26, 2023.

Political activist Mongkhon Thirakot gives a three-finger salute in a pro-democracy gesture before going to court in Thailand, January 26, 2023.
(Thai Lawyer for Human Rights via AP)

Mongkhon was released on bail while his case was on appeal, under the condition that he not engage in acts that harm the monarchy or leave the country.

Prosecution under the Liège Majesty law has attracted public attention recently due to a prison hunger strike by two women activists charged with the crime.

Tantawan “Tavan” Tuatulnon and Orawan “Bum” Phupong were freed on bail, but announced earlier this month that they were revoking their own release to return to prison in solidarity with others on the same charges. have been They issued demands including reform of the justice system, the release of political prisoners, and the restoration of civil liberties by abolishing legislation such as the lese majesté law.

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After three days in jail, he began a hunger strike in which he was consuming neither food nor liquid, a murderous tactic. On Tuesday, he was shifted from the jail hospital to a government hospital with better facilities.

As their strike continued, supporters held smaller protests.

The opposition Move Forward party, which is offering support, has proposed an amendment to the lez majeste law, but no action has been taken in parliament.

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The proposal would reduce punishment for defaming the king to a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of up to $9,160, while offenses against the queen, the king’s heirs or regent would be subject to a maximum jail term of six months. and a fine of up to $6,100.

Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat said, “There is a problem with the whole Thai justice system and the enforcement of the lese majeste law, which is also used as a political tool. Thailand has to solve this and change its distorted justice system.” has to be improved.” ,

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