A Thai man was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday for selling a calendar featuring satirical cartoons of yellow ducks, a legal aid group said.
Bangkok’s Criminal Court has ruled that a 2021 calendar containing pictures of yellow ducks in poses similar to Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn and demeaning his reputation, undermining his reputation, said Thai lawyers for human rights.
The yellow rubber duck was at one point a tongue-in-cheek symbol of Thailand’s pro-democracy protest movement.
Narthorn Chhotmankongsin was charged under Thailand’s lèse majeste law, which calls for three to 15 years’ imprisonment for anyone who defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir apparent or regent. does.
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The court declared that the six illustrations in the calendar had been made in order to ridicule the king.
The legal aid group said the 26-year-old defendant, who it identified by the pseudonym Ton Mai, had his sentence reduced by two years because he cooperated with the court.
Human Rights Watch issued a statement on Wednesday calling on Thai authorities to “rescind the sentence and immediately release Northorn Chhotmankongsin”.
Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, “The prosecution and three-year sentence of a man for selling a satirical calendar shows that Thai authorities are now seeking to punish any activity that they consider to be a reflection of the monarchy.” Seems insulting.” “This case sends a message to all Thais and the rest of the world that Thailand is moving from – not closer to – becoming a democracy that respects rights.”
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The lez majeste law has long been criticized for its harshness and for a provision allowing anyone to file a complaint while allowing its use for partisan political purposes. In recent years, it has become a focus of pro-democracy activists, who have called for it to be modified or abolished.
Two young women activists demanding its repeal and other judicial reforms are reportedly in critical condition after a hunger strike for over six weeks.
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At least 233 people have been charged with lese majeste since November 2020, according to Thai lawyers for human rights. Prior to this, trials had been informally suspended, then revived as the protest movement gained strength and increasingly criticized the monarchy.
Demands for reform of the monarchy have been controversial because, by tradition, the institution is considered untouchable and one of the main foundations of Thai nationalism.
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