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She Insulted the King. Now, a Record 43-Year Sentence

Thai ex-civil servant was originally supposed to get 87 years behind bars for violating lese-majeste law
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 20, 2021 9:54 AM CST

(Newser) – A court in Thailand on Tuesday sentenced a former civil servant to a record prison term of 43 years and six months for breaching the country's strict law on insulting or defaming the monarchy, lawyers said. The Bangkok Criminal Court found the woman guilty on 29 counts of violating the country's lese-majeste law for posting audio clips to Facebook and YouTube with comments deemed critical of the monarchy, says the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group. The court initially announced her sentence as 87 years but reduced it by half because she pleaded guilty to the offenses, the group notes. Violating Thailand's lese-majeste law—known widely as Article 112—is punishable by three to 15 years' imprisonment per count. The law is controversial not only because it has been used to punish things as simple as liking a post on Facebook, but also because anyone—not just royals or authorities—can lodge a complaint that can tie up the accused in legal proceedings for years.

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TLHR identified the woman sentenced Tuesday only by her first name, Anchan, and said she was in her mid-60s. Her case dates back six years, when anti-establishment sentiment was growing after a 2014 military coup led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. "There were so many people who shared this content and listened to it," she said Tuesday. "The guy [who made the content] had done it for so many years. ... I didn't really think this through and was ... not being careful enough to realize at the time that it wasn't appropriate." The sentence, which comes amid an ongoing protest movement that has seen unprecedented public criticism of the monarchy, was swiftly condemned by rights groups, per the AP. "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 Human Rights Watch researcher says.

(Read more Thailand stories.)

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