Thai lawmaker

Thai Lawmaker Receives 6-Year Sentence For Royal Insults

Thai lawmaker

A progressive Thai lawmaker, Rukchanok Srinok, from the opposition Move Forward Party has been sentenced to six years in prison for alleged insults to the monarchy through two social media posts, CNN reported, citing, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

The charges include lese majeste and breaching the Computer Crimes Act, with the Criminal Court finding her guilty of posts made on the X platform in 2020.

Thailand has some of the world’s strictest lese majeste laws, criticising the King, Queen, or heir, carrying a maximum 15-year prison sentence. Convictions under Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code can result in lengthy sentences spanning decades, with numerous individuals facing prosecution in recent years, according to CNN.

One of the posts in question involved a critique regarding the government’s Covid-19 vaccine procurement, implicating a pharmaceutical company associated with the king, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR). Another post included a retweet of a photo from a 2020 protest, featuring messages deemed by the court to be anti-monarchy, as reported by TLHR, an organisation actively monitoring the case.

Rukchanok’s posts reportedly included criticism of the government’s Covid-19 vaccine procurement, linked to a pharmaceutical company associated with the king, and a retweet of a 2020 protest photo with messages considered anti-monarchy, as reported by CNN.

Rukchanok, also known as “Ice,” has been granted bail while she appeals the sentence. Despite the legal challenges, she expressed her commitment to being the voice for all 112 defendants seeking bail, as she resumed her parliamentary duties.

Before entering politics in 2023, Rukchanok was an activist and vocal critic of the former government led by Prayut Chan-o-cha. Her party, Move Forward, won the most votes in the May election but faced challenges forming a government due to opposition from the conservative establishment over proposed lese majeste law reforms.

Thailand has seen increased activism, particularly among the youth, calling for constitutional and democratic reforms, challenging the military’s influence and advocating changes to the monarchy. The topic of royal reform, once a taboo subject, has gained traction since the 2020 protests, despite legal risks.

Rukchanok is among the hundreds prosecuted for lese majeste since the 2020 protests. Human rights groups, including Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, highlight a significant decline in freedom of expression, with over 1,930 people politically prosecuted since July 2020, including 216 cases involving children. At least 259 individuals have faced lese majeste charges during this period.

Prominent activist and lawyer Arnon Nampa, sentenced to four years in September 2021 for lese majeste charges, was among the first to publicly call for monarchy reform during the 2020 protests.

Human Rights Watch has strongly condemned Rukchanok’s sentencing, calling it an “appalling violation of free expression” and urging Thai authorities to quash the sentence and cease prosecuting lese majeste cases.

Critics argue that lese majeste and related laws have been misused to silence government critics and curb free speech in Thailand, CNN reported. (ANI)

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