A political activist was sentenced to 28 years in prison for insulting the Thai monarchy on Facebook.
Mongkol Tirakote, a 29-year-old online clothing vendor and activist, was found guilty in two separate royal defamation cases by a court in the northern city of Chiang Rai on Thursday. He was arrested in August last year. According to the court, Tirakote violated Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws in 14 of 27 Facebook posts. His prison sentence was originally set to 42 years, but the court reduced it to 28 years following his testimony.
While Tirakote intends to lodge an appeal, the court has granted him bail of 300,000 baht (approximately $9,144), according to his lawyer.
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Sunai Phasuk, a Human Rights Watch senior researcher, said that Tirakote’s 28-year sentence is the second-highest prison term given by a Thai court for a royal defamation case.
Tirakote also faces a third royal defamation charge over online posts from last year.
He is expected back in court in March for the separate charge.
Those convicted under the lèse-majesté laws face imprisonment of three to 15 years per count.
According to critics, the laws are often taken advantage of to suppress public debate.
In 2021, a former civil servant was sentenced to over 43 years in prison after she posted several audio clips critical of the Thai monarch on social media. There have been more than 200 royal defamation cases since November 2020, when mass youth-led protests called for democratic change, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.