Thai activist sentenced to 28 years in prison for posting online to King

BANGKOK — A Thai court on Thursday sentenced a 27-year-old political activist to 28 years in prison for posting a message on Facebook that he said defamed the country’s monarchy. he was hospitalized

A court in northern Chiang Rai found that Mongkol Thirakot had violated the lese majeste law in 14 of the 27 positions he was arrested last August. The law covers the current king, his queen and his heirs, and the regent.

The lese majestate law, which carries prison sentences of three to 15 years for each incident of insulting the monarchy, has been used by critics as a tool to quell political dissent. says there are many. A student-led pro-democracy movement that began in 2020 openly criticized the previously taboo monarchy, leading to violent prosecutions under the previously relatively seldom employed law.

At least 228 people, including 18 minors, have been charged with breaking the law since November 2020, according to a Thai human rights lawyer. COVID-19 Pandemic.

A court in Chiang Rai ruled that 13 messages posted by Mongkhon, an online clothing retailer, were linked to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the father of the current King Maha Vajiralongkorn, or to certain royal figures. It was determined that the law was not violated because it did not mention Mongkhon was found guilty and sentenced to his three-year prison term for each of his remaining 14 positions. Due to Mongkhon’s cooperation with the court, a total prison sentence of 42 years was commuted to 28 years for him by 1/3 for him.

Mongkol was granted bail during his appeal on the condition that he not do anything that would damage the monarchy or leave the country.

Indictments under the Lese Majeste Act have recently been in the public eye due to a prison hunger strike by two female activists charged with the crime.

Two of them, Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon and Orawan “Bam” Phupong, had been released on bail but earlier this month reversed their release and went to prison in solidarity with others pending trial on the same charges. announced that he would return. They called for reform of the judicial system, the release of political prisoners, and the restoration of civil liberties through the repeal of laws such as the lese majeste law.

Three days after returning to prison, they launched a hunger strike, consuming no food or liquids, a life-threatening tactic. On Tuesday, they were moved from the prison hospital to a better-equipped state hospital.

Supporters held small protests as the strike continued.

The opposition Forward Party, which has expressed its support, has proposed amendments to the lese majeste law, but no action has been taken in parliament.

The proposal would reduce the penalty for defaming the King to a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of up to 300,000 baht ($9,160), while offenses against the Queen, the King’s heirs or regents would be punishable by up to six years in prison. become. – Imprisonment for one month and a fine of up to 200,000 baht ($6,100).

“There are problems with the Thai judicial system as a whole, and there are problems with the enforcement of the lese majeste law, which is also used as a political tool. Thailand must solve this and improve its distorted judicial system,” he said. Party leader Pita Rimjaroenrat said.

By Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul