A former civil servant in Thailand, identified as Anchan by rights groups, is now facing a 43-year prison term for being critical about the country’s monarchy online. Based on what officials said, it was found that she was sentenced based on the country’s laws against “insulting the monarchy.” Previously, the longest prison sentence for lèse-majesté was 35 years, which was issued in 2017.
The woman facing the prison sentence was found guilty by the Bangkok Criminal Court as she posted audio clips on YouTube and Facebook, where she was condemning the monarchy of the country and a group called “Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.”
It is worth noting that the original prison sentence was for 87 years. But the woman pleaded guilty and hoped the court would pardon her, which resulted in the sentence being reduced to 47 years.
The news of the former civil servant’s prison sentence added fuel to the fire of a growing wave of protests against the country’s ruling monarchy.
Needless to say, rights groups across the country condemned the prison sentence. “Today’s court verdict is shocking and sends a spine-chilling signal that not only criticisms of the monarchy won’t be tolerated, but they will also be severely punished,” a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, Sunai Phasuk said.
The law, referred to as the “lèse-majesté law” or “Article 112” has been the go-to option for the Thai monarchy to suppress criticism and crush dissent. Violating Article 112 attracts harsh prison sentences, usually ranging from between three to 15 years.
Several young protestors are now increasingly turning against the monarchy and are calling for reform; something very uncommon for an average Thai person to do, considering the royal family is often considered sacred.
In response to the rising protests and pushback, the Thai government acted by further suppressing the movement and arrested nearly 50 individuals so far. Such moves, however, are attracting more backlash towards the Thai monarchy.
“Thai authorities are using lèse-majesté prosecution as their last-resort measure in response to the youth-led democracy uprising that seeks to curb the king’s powers,” said Phasuk.