A 65-year-old Thai woman has been handed a ‘shocking’ 43-year jail term, a sentence which Amnesty International claims is the longest ever handed out in the southeast Asian country for criticising the monarchy.
Former civil servant, Anchan Preelert, was sentenced to 87 years in jail but her sentence was reduced to half after she pleaded guilty to 29 separate violations. Her total sentence was 43 years and six months.
She was convicted for violating Thailand’s controversial and toughest lèse-majesté law, after audio clips were posted online with comments deemed critical of the royal family.
“Today’s court verdict is shocking and sends a spine-chilling signal that not only criticisms of the monarchy won’t be tolerated but that they will also be severely punished,” said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher on Thailand for Human Rights Watch, according to local media reports.
Ms Preelert was being tried in a military court initially but transferred to civilian court after a 2019 general election.
She can appeal at two higher courts, her lawyer said.
“The government has announced that they are going to impose the lèse-majesté law,” her lawyer Pawinee Chumsri said. “So I think we will see more and more 112 cases and verdicts because that’s the trend of where the government is going.”
There has been a rise in lèse-majesté cases since last year when the controversial law under Section 112 of the criminal code was paused for three years. However, it was again invoked last year, sparking outrage among people and thousands of people openly criticising the monarchy.
Protesters gathered in their thousands last year to criticise King Maha Vajiralongkorn and openly questioned the royal family’s vast wealth and power.
More than 40 youth activists have been charged since November 2020 under the lèse-majesté law but none of those cases has been brought to trial.
This came after another man, arrested in 2014, was sentenced to more than four years of jail on Monday for publishing articles and poems online that were deemed containing falsehoods about the monarchy.