Thai woman jailed for 43 years for vilifying monarchy

Thai woman jailed for 43 years over defaming monarchy

Their appearance at a central Bangkok police station was the latest skirmish between Thailand's royalist establishment and the youth-led protest movement that caught fire past year with a series of well-attended rallies around the country calling for major political reforms, including of the country's influential monarchy.

On Tuesday, a court sentenced a former civil servant arrested in 2015 to more than 43 years in prison for disseminating audio clips deemed defamatory to the monarchy - the harshest punishment ever received. The verdict is likely to send a chill through the movement, which has seen dozens of its protest leaders and activists charged with the same crime.

Violating Thailand's lese majeste legislation - recognized broadly as Article 112 - is punishable by three to 15 years' imprisonment per depend. It carries three to five years of a sentence per count. This initially added up to a term of 87 years, but the sentence was halved after the defendant admitted her "guilt".

The Bangkok Court found a 29-year-old woman violating the lese-majeste law.

The court on Thursday rejected the bail request sought by Anchan Preelert, saying she might pose a flight risk.

The move could mark the highest-profile lese majeste case since a wave of anti-government protests emerged a year ago and extended to criticism of King Maha Vajiralongkorn over accusations of meddling in politics and taking too much power.

After King Maha Vajralongkorn took the throne in 2016 following his father's loss of life, he knowledgeable the federal government that he didn't want to see the lese majeste legislation used. "There were so many people who shared this content and listened to it", Anchan said.

The Thai government has filed a royal defamation complaint against one of its most high-profile critics after he questioned the involvement of a company with links to the monarchy in the nation's vaccine production. The pro-democracy people have thronged into the streets of Thailand for months now. The younger generation tore apart the idea of a sacred monarchy and a king fortified from public scrutiny. Their demands included the King be held to account under the constitution, a curb on his powers, and transparency over his finances. At least 54 individuals in 39 lawsuits were charged under lese majeste since November 24, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

While this week's sentence involved charges that date back to 2014-15, shortly after Thailand's most recent military coup, the timing and severity of the sentence suggest a broadening of the lese-majeste offensive in a bid to quash any and all criticism of King Vajiralongkorn and the institution that he represents.

All this suggests that far from showing signs of flexibility or willingness to compromise, Thailand's ruling establishment is doubling down on its war against those demanding change. But the protest movement charges that monarchy is unaccountable and wields too much power is what is supposed to a democratic constitutional monarchy.

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