THAILAND: ACTIVIST JAILED FOR 18 YEARS FOR INSULTING MONARCHY
An opposition activist in
On 28 August Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul was convicted on three counts of lese majeste, each carrying a six-year jail term, for remarks that she made in speeches last year criticising the 2006 coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The speeches were made at rallies of the "Red Shirts", the name given to Thaksin supporters who believe the current government led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is illegitimate, and who call for Thaksin to be reinstated.
Authorities have also blocked excerpts of Daranee's speeches on YouTube, which had been the basis for the complaints filed against her, says SEAPA.
The judge hearing Daranee's case closed the court to the public and the media last month, citing national security concerns. And because Daranee showed no remorse, the court found no cause for leniency, reports SEAPA.
"It is what I expected to happen," Daranee told reporters after the verdict. "I will appeal."
Arrested on 22 July 2008, Daranee has been denied bail three times despite her lawyers' pleas, and claims that her health may be deteriorating.
The decision to fight the charges is unusual. According to news reports, human rights lawyers say the charges are difficult to beat in a nation known for its intense loyalty to the Royal Family, and most defendants choose to plead guilty and beg the King for mercy.
Several people have been charged with lese majeste in recent years, such as a Thai engineer who got 10 years for sending online pictures that offended the Royal Family, and former BBC correspondent Jonathan Head, who presided over a public debate.
Police are investigating the entire board of the Thailand Foreign Correspondents' Club for possible breaches of the laws, say SEAPA and news reports.
Under current rules, anybody can file a complaint of lese majeste, which has led to many Thai politicians using the laws as a tool to silence their rivals.
According to SEAPA, lese majeste charges have surged since the 2006 coup, and are punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
Earlier this year Abhisit said he would look into ensuring the laws were not abused but little progress has been made.
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-Red Shirt activist jailed for 18 years for insulting Thai Royal Family
Red Shirt activist jailed for 18 years for insulting Thai Royal Family
A court in Bangkok sentenced a political activist to 18 years in prison yesterday for insulting the Thai Royal Family, the latest in a flurry of cases that analysts say are inhibiting freedom of speech and stifling political dissent.
Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul was convicted of three charges of lèse-majesté for remarks that she made in speeches last year criticising the 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin Shinawatra, who was then the Prime Minister.
Mr Thaksin, who was convicted in absentia last year of breaching conflict of interest laws and lives abroad to avoid a jail term, remains a polarising figure in Thai politics.
Mr Thaksin’s Red Shirt supporters plan to rally again in central Bangkok tomorrow to demand change. They are furious with the Government led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Prime Minister, which they deem illegitimate, and want Mr Thaksin to be reinstated.
When his supporters protested in April they disrupted an Asean summit and brought parts of Bangkok to a standstill.
The Red Shirts, known formally as the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), said that the rally tomorrow will be peaceful.
The Government, however, has invoked the Internal Security Act to ban gatherings at three of the locations used for Red Shirt rallies, and deployed troops and police.
Red Shirt leaders fear provocateurs will try and to cause trouble. “If any unrest occurs, it will not be caused by the Red Shirts,” Jatuporn Prompan, the UDD leader, told Thai media yesterday.
Daranee, 46, was sentenced to three six-year prison terms to run consecutively for insulting the monarchy in speeches that she gave at Red Shirt rallies. Prommas Phoo-sang, the judge, closed the court to the public and the media last month, citing reasons of national security.
“It is what I expected to happen,” Daranee said after the verdict. “I will appeal.” The decision to fight the charges is unusual.
Human rights lawyers said that the charges are difficult to beat in a nation known for its intense loyalty to the Royal Family, and most defendants choose to plead guilty and beg the King for mercy.
Several people have been charged with or investigated over lèse-majesté in recent years. They include a man who refused to stand for the royal anthem in a cinema, the Australian author Harry Nicolaides, whose book sold seven copies, and the former BBC correspondent Jonathan Head, who presided over a public debate.
Police are investigating the entire board of the Thailand Foreign Correspondents’ Club for possible breaches of the laws.
Many Thai politicians appear to regard lèse-majesté laws as a tool to use against their opponents. Earlier this year Mr Abhisit said that his Government would discuss amending the laws but little progress has been made.