Human Interest

Former Thai civil servant given 43-year jail sentence for royal defamation

Bangkok, Jan 19 (efe-epa).- A Thai court sentenced a former civil servant to 43 years and six months in prison Tuesday over several crimes of lese majesty, in what is the harshest sentence for criticizing the country’s king to date.

Anchan Preelert, 63, who has already spent more than three years in jail awaiting trial, pleaded guilty during the process, which served to reduce the original sentence of 87 years in prison by half, three for each of the 29 crimes for which she was accused, her lawyer, Phawini Chumsri said.

Chumsri said her representative, who worked in the Ministry of Finance, will appeal the court’s decision in search of a further reduction in sentence.

According to the Criminal Court’s ruling, the woman shared the recording of a radio program where the monarchy was criticised on social networks 29 times between November 2014 and January 2015.

This last sentence is the harshest issued to date for a lese majesty case, after the 35-year prison sentence of a military court in 2017, when the junta that carried out a coup in 2014 still ruled the country.

The Criminal Court also sentenced the writer Siraphob Korn-Arutla yesterday to four years in prison for writing poems and critical comments about the late King Bhumibol.

Thailand is experiencing an intense debate around the royal defamation crime to which the student-led protest wants an end as part of democratic reforms they demand for the country.

Since July, at least 46 people, many of them student leaders, have been accused of violating the draconian law, which establishes penalties of between three and 15 years in prison for those who criticize or make comments that are considered insulting against the monarchy.

Though since the arrival to the throne of King Vajiralongkorn in 2016, after the death of his father, this crime had practically not been applied, in recent months authorities have used it to quell the student movement’s criticism of the monarch.

This wave of protests calls for structural changes in the political system including the reform of the monarchy, which until recently had always been a taboo subject in Thailand. EFE-EPA

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