Woman Sentenced to Over 43 Years in Prison for Criticizing Thai Monarchy on Social Media

Anchan Preelert

A former civil servant is now facing 43 years and six months of prison time for violating Thailand’s lèse-majesté law after she posted several audio clips critical of the Thai monarch on social media.

Anchan Preelert, 65, was initially sentenced to 87 years in prison but was halved after pleading guilty to 29 separate violations to the lèse-majesté law, or the insulting of a monarch or other ruler, according to Reuters.

She received her sentence in court on Tuesday.

Human rights groups have condemned the sentencing of Anchan amid the ongoing protest in Thailand, TIME reported.

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“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,” senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, Sunai Phasuk, said in a statement.

Anchan is accused of sharing clips that are critical of the monarchy on YouTube and Facebook between 2014 and 2015, BBC reported.

She is one of at least 169 people who were charged with lèse-majesté after the military took control of the power in a 2014 coup.

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The woman was kept in jail from January 2015 to November 2018. Anchan, who worked as a civil servant for 40 years, was arrested one year before her retirement. She also lost her pension after being convicted of the charges.

Anchan’s case was first brought to the military court months after the 2014 coup, but it was later transferred to the civilian court after the 2019 general election.

Anchan pleaded guilty, hoping that the court would show her sympathy as she only shared the contents she found online.

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“I thought it was nothing. There were so many people who shared this content and listened to it. The guy (who made the content) had done it for so many years,” she said. “So I didn’t really think this through and was too confident and not being careful enough to realize at the time that it wasn’t appropriate.”

Anchan faced trial in a closed-door setting, and the evidence against her was kept secret from the public, citing national security reasons.

Sunai said the Thai authorities are using lèse-majesté as a response to the youth-led movement in the country and that “Thailand’s political tensions will now go from bad to worse.”

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“It can be seen that Thai authorities are using lese majeste prosecution as their last resort measure in response to the youth-led democracy uprising that seeks to curb the king’s powers and keep him within the bound of constitutional rule,” Sunai said.

Those caught violating the lèse-majesté law may face imprisonment of three to 15 years per count.

Feature Image via Getty

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