A Thailand Court gives the longest ever sentence, 43 years and 6 months in prison, to a woman who was charged with breaching the ‘lese majeste law’ of the country. The ‘lese majestic law’ in Thailand, known as article 112, says that anyone found to defame, insult or threaten the members of the Monarchy(Royal Family) of Thailand shall be punished with 3 to 15 years of imprisonment. The law is a weapon in the hands of Thailand’s Monarchy and has worked for years to silence dissent in the country.
Thailand Court Convicts Woman under 29 Counts of Charges
The Thai Lawyers group for Human Rights informed the media that the woman was convicted by the Bangkok Criminal Court under 29 charges for posting audio clips on Facebook and YouTube. The comments in the audio were deemed critical of the King, as alleged by the government.
The Rights group in the country was swift to condemn this sentence of 43 years, calling the court verdict shocking and unjust. ‘Sunai Phasuk’, Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch said that it is a spine-chilling verdict and sends out a strong signal to the public that criticism of the monarchy will not be tolerated, and the protestors can expect severe punishment for the same. He also hinted at the country’s political situation going from bad to worse. Before this, the longest sentence been given under the lese majeste law, was by a military court, that sentenced a man to 35 years imprisonment, for social media posts that were deemed defamatory to the monarchy.
The monarchy is nothing less than a sacred institution in Thailand, to which the protestors have questioned the accountability of the former and sought democratic reforms in the country. After King ‘Maha Vajralongkorn’ sworn into the throne in 2016, he stated that he did not wish for the lese majeste law to be used. But, in 2020, when the protests and criticism against the monarchy grew to a huge extent, Prime Minister ‘Prayuth Chan-ocha’ suggested that the law be used.
Thailand Monarchy Shows No Sympathy as Woman Pleads Guilty
The convicted woman, who is identified by her first name ‘Anchan’ is in her mid-60s and was serving Jail from January 2015 to November 2018. After the 2014 military coup in Thailand, when her case was heard in a military court, she denied the charges. However, this time, in the hope that the criminal court will show sympathy in her case, she pleaded guilty for her actions, but her sentence was reduced from an initial 87 years to 43 years. On her arrival to the court on Tuesday, she mentioned that posting the content was not a big thing according to her. She said that many people had earlier shared this content and listened to it. Also, she said that she did not even put a post or comment on the audio clip, neither did she realize at the time that it would lead to punishment.
Since 2014, hundreds of people in Thailand have been prosecuted under the ‘lese majeste law’, and since November last year, about 50 people were arrested and charged under the law. Thailand is using the lese majeste prosecution widely as a resolve to suppress the youth-led pro-democracy protests in the country.
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