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Thai Man Jailed for Insulting Monarchy in Facebook Posts

A Thai man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison by a military court after posting messages and pictures on Facebook 'defaming the monarchy'. The original punishment of 60 years was halved because 48-year-old Pongsak Sriboonpeng admitted to his 'crime'.

The nation's strict lèse-majesté law, which translates literally as 'injured majesty', makes any insult of the king, queen, heir, or regent an offence punishable by up to 15 years per count. Convictions under the law have surged since royalist generals toppled the elected government last May.

The Thai government and the media take the measures very seriously. Even when they report on these offences, media outlets must be careful not to repeat them, as this could be seen as illegal. Now that the country is ruled under martial law, others like Sriboonpeng found guilty of insulting the monarchy cannot appeal their sentences.

In March, Tiensutham Suttijitseranee was jailed for 25 years for posting defamatory pictures on Facebook in a closed-door sentencing – effectively a life sentence for the 58-year-old man. Tiensutham’s sentence was also halved because he pleaded guilty, his lawyer Sasinan Thamnithinan told Reuters. Reports suggest that the lèse-majesté law has also been used to justify censorship and online snooping. YouTube was blocked by the Thai government in 2007 for hosting a video it deemed insulting to revered king Bhumibol Adulyadej. The site was banned after Google declined requests to remove the 44-second film showing graffiti over the king’s face. In 2014, the law justified mass surveillance ‘specifically targeting those producing and reading lèse-majesté content.’

International rights groups have lambasted the ‘preposterous’ defamation rules and called for an end to lèse-majesté law. Critics of the law say that it is being used in a targeted fashion against political enemies of the royalist elite. The UN has urged the Thai government to amend the law to bring it in line with international human rights standards, but so far they have shown no signs of budging. ‘Until the law is amended, such laws should not be used arbitrarily to curb debate on critical issues of public interest, even when it involves criticism of heads of state or government,’ UN rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

Aaron Waterhouse

Aaron is a recent English graduate from Durham University who is now working as a content writer intern. An enthusiastic traveller, he hopes to become a journalist and report from around the world. Follow him @AaronAtSMF

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Thai Man Jailed for Insulting Monarchy in Facebook Posts Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 Rating: 5

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