Chiang Rai activist sentenced to 28 years for royal defamation
A Chiang Rai activist will now spend the next 28 years behind bars after being charged with royal defamation. Mongkol Tirakote, an activist and online clothing vendor was charged with two separate royal defamation cases after posting defamatory comments online.
According to The Hindu, the kingdom’s lese-majeste laws are among the harshest in the world with rights groups saying they are used to suppress public debate. Royal defamation convictions can carry a jail term of up to 15 years per charge.
The 29-year-old’s prison sentence was originally 42 years but the court reduced it following his testimony, according to his lawyer. Human Rights Watch senior researcher, Sunai Phasuk, says the 28-year sentence is the second-highest handed down by a Thai court.
The highest jail term sentenced over a royal defamation case came in 2021 when a Thai court handed down a 43-year jail term to a woman after she was found guilty of insulting the monarchy. Originally, her prison sentence was 87 years but it was reduced.
His lawyer went on to say that Mongkol was granted a bail of 300,000 baht and that he intends to file an appeal.
Mongkol also faces a third royal defamation charge that will see him back in court in March.
Section 112 of Thailand’s penal code was originally meant to shield the royal family from defamation, threats or insults, but it has been criticised as being used to include any type of criticism of the monarchy.
For years, the charge was on the decline, but then youth-led protests in 2020 saw masses calling for democratic change and reform of the monarchy. The demonstrations led to an uptick in 112 charges.
Since November 2020, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights say that there have been more than 200 cases brought against pro-democracy activists.
Thailand’s Computer Crime Act of 1997 also bans defaming anyone online or on social media.
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