Thailand: 25-year sentence for criticising royal family as government tightens vice on dissent

The conviction and sentencing this morning of a Thai businessman to 25 years in prison for posting messages allegedly critical of the royal family on Facebook is preposterous and shows the urgent need for Thailand to amend its outdated ‘lèse majesté’ law, said Amnesty International.

A Thai military court found Theinsutham Suthijittaseranee, 58, guilty on all five counts of posting messages deemed defamatory of Thailand’s royal family.

The military court had sentenced Theinsutham Suthijittaseranee to 50 years’ imprisonment but halved it in recognition of his guilty plea. He has no right to appeal.

The businessman was detained without charge by the military under martial law powers and during the five days he was held arbitrarily military officers interrogated him until he confessed to the alleged crimes. He was not allowed to see a lawyer or members of his family.
 

Rupert Abbott, Deputy Director for the Asia Pacific Programme at Amnesty International, said:

“The sentence against Theinsutham Suthijittaseranee is one of the harshest we have seen in a long time, which sends worrying signs that the Thai authorities are tightening the vice on anyone they do not agree with.

“It is appalling that in the 21st century people are being imprisoned for decades for criticising the monarchy. Peacefully expressing an opinion is not a crime. Theinsutham must be released immediately and the lèse majesté law should be scrapped.”

The sentence comes the same day that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha issued a request to Thailand’s King to allow the lifting of martial law. The interim constitution gives the Prime Minister unchallenged authority to replace martial law with new legislation he claims is necessary for maintaining national security.

Since martial law came into force in Thailand last May, hundreds of people have been arbitrarily detained and dozens dragged before military courts for peacefully exercising their rights to assembly and expression.

 

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