A Thai military court has jailed a woman for over nine years for royal defamation, an official said, the latest in a series of harsh sentences to raise concern about the draconian law.
The most recent high-profile cases include a probe into the US ambassador for comments he made about jail terms under the lese majeste law, and charges against a man for allegedly insulting the king’s dog.
The woman, Chayapa Shokpornbudsri, was found guilty Tuesday of defaming the monarchy on Facebook at a hearing held without her lawyer’s presence, a court official told AFP.
The 49-year-old was handed a 19-year sentence which was cut to nine and a half years after she pleaded guilty, the official said, adding it was “a secret ruling”.
“From her Facebook posts, she was found guilty of defaming the monarchy, threatening state security and violations of the computer crimes act,” the court official said on condition of anonymity.
Thailand has one of the world’s harshest lese majeste laws. Prosecutions have soared since the army, which styles itself as the champion of the monarchy, grabbed power in a coup in May last year.
Any member of the public can allege royal defamation and the police are duty bound to investigate.
Critics say that situation often results in witch-hunts led by ultra-nationalists who comb through social media and monitor public events for possible breaches of the law.
Those convicted of insulting the revered but ailing 88-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, or the queen, heir or regent can face up to 15 years in jail on each count.
Chayapa’s lawyer Khumklao Songsomboon, from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, told Chayapa “was crying when she rang yesterday… I only knew about the verdict after it had happened,” Khumklao said.
“I don’t know why (they didn’t tell me). I don’t know what the court’s intention was,” she said, adding the lack of notice violated her client’s human rights.