Progressive Thai lawmaker sentenced to jail for insulting monarchy

Progressive Thai lawmaker sentenced to jail for insulting monarchy
Progressive Thai lawmaker sentenced to jail for insulting monarchy

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A court in Thailand sentenced an activist-turned-lawmaker to six years in prison today for insulting the powerful monarchy and related offenses, over social media posts deemed defamatory of the crown. — Reuters pic

BANGKOK, Dec 13 — A court in Thailand sentenced an activist-turned-lawmaker to six years in prison today for insulting the powerful monarchy and related offenses, over social media posts deemed defamatory of the crown.

Rukchanok Srinok, 29, a parliamentarian with the progressive Move Forward Party, was found guilty over two posts made in 2020 on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, according to a court statement.

One accused the government of using Covid-19 vaccine distribution to promote the monarchy’s image, which the court considered defamation.

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Another was her sharing of a graphically worded post on X, made by another user, that the court said had displayed “great malice” towards the king.

Thailand’s lese-majeste law is one of the strictest of its kind in the world, protecting the king, queen, heir and regent from criticism and carrying a jail sentence of 15 years for each perceived insult to the monarchy.

Rukchanok also faces potential disqualification as a member of parliament for Bangkok if the court does not grant her bail on Wednesday, her lawyer and fellow lawmaker Weeranan Huadsri told Reuters, adding she would appeal the sentence.

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Rukchanok gained prominence as an activist in an anti-government, youth-led democracy movement that called for reforms to the palace and the lese-majeste law and at times drew crowds of more than 100,000 people.

She later joined Move Forward, which campaigned to amend the royal insults law and was elected to parliament in a May general election. Move Forward won the election but failed to form a government, with strong opposition from lawmakers appointed by or allied with the royalist military.

At least 262 people have been charged with insulting the monarchy since 2020, according to data tracked by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights advocacy group.

The court on Wednesday said that under cross-examination, Rukchanok “did not display any inclination to present evidence to prove her innocence,” adding such behaviour was unusual for a Thai person “who must respect and avoid offending the king.” — Reuters

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