A court has sentenced a student to 30 months’ prison for insulting Thailand’s king on Facebook. The judge cut the original sentence of five years' imprisonment in half because the defendant had confessed to the offense.
On Tuesday, a Criminal Court judge found 24-year-old Akkaradet Eiamsuwan guilty of violating Thailand's lese majeste law, which punishes anyone who defames, insults or threatens the monarchy. The court found that Eiamsuwan had used an alias to post the offensive message to Facebook in March, charging him under the Computer Crime Act as well as the feared royal defamation law.
In September, the rights group Amnesty International announced that Thailand had charged an "unprecedented" number of people with insulting the monarchy since a military coup earlier this year, echoing concerns raised by the United Nations.
Thailand brooks no dissent when it comes to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, with Eiamsuwan's seemingly harsh sentence coming as a relative relief compared to the 15 years faced by folks convicted of insulting the monarch, queen, heir or regent - the world's harshest potential penalty under such laws. Eiamsuwan went to jail immediately, the AFP news agency reported, though he had remained in custody since his arrest in Bangkok in June.
Post-coup crackdown alleged
Since grabbing power in May, coup leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha has cracked down on anyone who insults the monarchy, beloved by the military and royalist Bangkok-based establishment, and increased the number of convictions under the law. Critics say the law stifles free speech and has become the army's political weapon against anti-coup elements - including supporters of Yingluck Shinawatra, the ousted embattled prime minister, forced from office after a series of scandals and growing public dissent.
Last week a court denied bail to the 23-year-old student Patiwat Saraiyaem and 25-year-old activist Porntip Mankong, charged with lese majeste linked to an October 2013 performance at a commemoration of a pro-democracy uprising. A few weeks earlier the court charged a 67-year-old man with insulting the monarchy by scribbling anti-royal comments on the wall of a public toilet.
In August a court sentenced a 28-year-old musician to 15 years in jail for writing insulting Facebook posts about the monarchy in 2010 and 2011. In another recent case, a court sent a taxi driver to jail for two and a half years after his passenger - a university lecturer who recorded their conversation on a mobile phone - accused him of expressing anti-royal views, according to Amnesty International.
mkg/mz (AFP, AP)