Thursday, February 25, 2021

Thai woman jailed for record 43 years for reposting critical podcasts on social media

She was found guilty of breaking Thailand's controversial lèse-majesté law which forbids any insult to the monarchy.

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A Thai woman has been jailed for 43 years for reposting audio podcasts criticising the royal family.

The sentence is the country’s longest ever under Thailand’s harsh lese-majeste law.

The 63-year-old was initially sentenced to 87 years, but this was reduced because of her guilty plea.

The former civil servant, known only as Anchan, was accused of posting audio clips on social media.

The trial was held behind closed doors and the evidence against the defendant kept secret for reasons of national security.

Thailand’s controversial lese-majeste law, which forbids any insult to the monarchy, is among the strictest in the world.

Thailand revived the law late last year after a three-year break, in an attempt to halt months of anti-government protests by demonstrators demanding changes to the monarchy.

Anchan pleaded guilty to 29 violations of sharing and posting clips on YouTube and Facebook between 2014 and 2015, her lawyer told the Reuters news agency.

The author of the podcasts served only two years in prison and has already been released.

Anchan is among a group of 14 people charged with lese-majeste shortly after a military junta seized power in 2014, vowing to stamp out criticism of the monarchy. The group remains accused of uploading podcasts, popular in dissident circles, which questioned official accounts of the monarchy.

That someone accused only of uploading these clips to social media should be given such a harsh sentence, so long after the original arrests, suggests the authorities want to send a warning to other dissidents to stop talking about the monarchy, says the BBC.

More than 40 mainly young activists have been charged with lese-majeste over the past few weeks, some multiple times.

Until the end of last year the law, which has been condemned by UN human rights officials as excessively severe, had been suspended for a three-year period, at the king’s request.

That leniency has clearly come to an end.

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