A 16 year old Thai teenager may be jailed for alleged defamation against the Thai monarchy at a pro-democracy protest last Wednesday by wearing a crop-top with an anti-monarchy slogan written on his stomach. The teen is being charged under Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, informally called “Section 112”, the section that covers defaming, insulting or threatening members of the Thai royal family, in the criminal code. If convicted, he faces 3 to 15 years in jail.
The teen’s protest is a direct reference to existing photos which are extremely sensitive to the Thai monarchy. The boy should learn if he’ll be formally charged on Monday, when the courts may deny him bail.
While the 16 year old is likely the youngest protester held under lèse-majesté defamation law, the 112 law has been used as a blunt tool by Thai officials as a means of quashing unrest and protests. At least 71 protesters, including 7 key protest leaders, have been accused under these laws since July last yer. In January, a 60 year old woman was handed a record 87 year jail sentence for defamatory social media posts, but was cut in half after a guilty plea.
Thai protesters have been demanding the current government step down, a new election and constitutional change, since last year, but recent protests have gone further, calling for the repeal of the 112 law which protects the Thai monarchy from criticism. Until recently, a demand like this was unthinkable, and authorities have moved swiftly to dampen the defiance. Applying Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws appears to have been an effective deterrent so far, with protest attendance shrinking recently, though Wednesday’s rally attracted between 5,000 – 10,000 people.
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