Girl, 15, released on bail after 51 days in jail for defaming Thai royals

Bangkok, May 18 (EFE).- A 15-year-old girl who was arrested in March for allegedly defaming the Thai royal family was released on bail on Thursday, a youth activist group confirmed.

Thalugaz, a group of youth activists, said on Thursday that Thanalop “Yok” Phalanchai was released from the Baan Pranee youth center, west of Bangkok, where she had been kept for 51 days.

The minor was arrested by Thai authorities on March 28 and accused of committing lèse-majesté (insulting or defaming the monarchy) offenses during a rally in October 2022 in front of the Bangkok City Hall, according to Human Rights Watch.

“The Central Juvenile and Family Court dismissed Samran Rat police’s request to extend Yok’s detention and the indictment period,” Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said on Twitter.

Article 112 of the Thai penal code, which covers the crime of lèse-majesté, establishes penalties of between 3 and 15 years in prison for those who defame, insult, or threaten the king, queen or the heir-apparent.

During protests in 2020, thousands of students took to the streets breaking a long-held taboo by calling for the abolition or reform of the lèse-majesté law.

Protesters also called for curbing the power of the monarchy, something that had never been publicly discussed before.

The government used the lèse-majesté law to clamp down on activists and dissidents in the wake of the unprecedented pro-democracy protests in Thailand in 2020.

Since then, at least 242 people, including minors, have been accused of lèse-majesté.

Around 1,900 people — including 284 minors — have been prosecuted for crimes related to freedom of speech, according to TLHR.

One of the most notorious cases was that of imprisoned activists Orawan Phuphong, 23, and Tantawan Tuatulanon, 21, who went on a hunger strike for 52 days to demand justice system reform in Thailand and the release of those detained under Article 112.

The activists were charged with lèse-majesté for carrying out a street survey in 2022 on traffic disturbances caused by royal convoys.

The progressive Move Forward Party, the clear winner in Sunday’s general elections, has pledged to reform the lèse-majesté laws if it manages to form a government coalition.

The party’s biggest obstacle to reform are the 250 senators who have been handpicked by the country’s military-backed, conservative and royalist government. EFE


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