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Thai court jails man for 28 years over monarchy comments

January 26, 2023

The Chiang Rai court ruled that the 27-year-old had violated Thailand's law on royal defamation in 14 of 27 internet posts. Hundreds have been arrested under the law since mass protests in 2020.

Thai King Maha Vajiralongkom Bodindradebayavarangkun and Princess Bajrakityabha behind Chakri royal standard
The activist was convicted of insulting the royal familyImage: Athit Perawongmetha/REUTERS

A Thai court sentenced a man to 28 years in prison for insulting the monarchy, his lawyer said on Thursday.

The court in the northern city of Chiang Rai found the online clothing vendor and activist Mongkol Tirakote guilty in two separate royal defamation cases.

What happened in court?

The court found that the 27-year-old violated the lese majeste law in 14 of 27 posts for which he was arrested in August. It found that the other posts did not violate the law as they were related to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej or did not mention a specific royal figure.

The man's lawyer told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency that the original prison sentence of 42 years was reduced following Mongkol's testimony.

Mongkol's lawyer said his client intended to lodge an appeal. The court granted the activist bail of 300,000 baht ($9,100, €8,370) while his case is on appeal.

Mongkol also faces a third royal defamation charge over online posts from last year. He is set to return to court in March.

Protesters scuffle with police in Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand has seen an increase in the prosecution of royal defamation cases since mass protests demanded reforms in 2020Image: Sarot Meksophawannaku/AP/picture alliance

Second-largest royal defamation sentence

Human Rights Watch senior researcher Sunai Phasuk said the 28-year sentence was the second-highest term handed down in a royal defamation case in Thailand.

In 2021, a Thai court sentenced a woman to 43 years in prison for insulting the monarchy. Her sentence was reduced from 87 years.

There has been an increase in royal defamation cases since mass protests in 2020 called for democratic change and reforms to the monarchy. Previously, prosecution under Thailand's lese majeste law had been relatively rare.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights organization said that there have been more than 200 royal defamation cases since November 2020. The group said that 18 minors have been charged with violating the law.

Earlier this month, two activists convicted of insulting the monarchy revoked their own bail in solidarity with others arrested under the law and later started a hunger strike.

sdi/nm (AFP, AP)