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Thai businessman gets 25 years for lese majeste

58-year-old judged to have made five insulting Facebook posts between July and November last year.

31.03.2015
Thai businessman gets 25 years for lese majeste

BANGKOK 

A Thai military court handed a businessman a 50-year prison sentence Tuesday for defaming the country’s monarchy, but then slashed it in half since he had pleaded guilty to all charges.

Thiansutham -- whose surname was withheld – was found guilty on five counts of lese-majeste, each of which came with a 10-year sentence.

The 58-year-old was judged to have made five insulting posts on his Facebook account under the name "Yai Daengduad" between July and November last year, the Bangkok Post reported.

“The defendant [had] insulted the beloved and revered Thai monarchy," summarized the judge.

The Prachatai news website quoted the judge as saying that the sentence was “already light” and would not be suspended since the offence was against a highly respected institution.

The country's stringent lese-majeste law, which can lead to imprisonment of between three and 15 years, is interpreted widely by courts and prohibits public discussion of the royal family.

Sasinan Thammanithinan, a lawyer from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group, said the defendant’s relatives and observers were not allowed to attend Tuesday’s closed session, according to the Post.

The defendant and his wife -- who was released after one night -- were arrested Dec. 18.

He was interrogated at an army base and then handed over to the police.

He has since been detained at Bangkok Remand Prison, with the court rejecting all bail applications, despite his wife posting 400,000 baht (more than $12,200) and saying he suffered a multıtude of health problems.

He confessed during military interrogation, and gave the authorities the passwords to his email and social network accounts.

According to Prachatai, the first post was dated July 25 and criticized the economy of the Thai monarchy, while the second claımed a soymilk brand was contaminated.

On Sep. 13, a post contained an image of a human with one eye along with an ımage of junta leader–cum-Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

It was accompanied by the phrase "Your f**** father" and comments about a “behind-the-scenes coup” story.

The fourth - involvıng an image of a poppy and curses against a prominent wealthy family allegedly involved in the illegal opium ındustry - was posted Sep. 27.

The final post in early November addressed the fate of an “Uncle Somchai.”

Prachataı quoted the polıce as sayıng: “The use of Uncle Somchai is widely known among Internet users and red shirts to refer to His Majesty the King.”

Defaming Uncle Somchai is therefore lese majeste, ıt added.

Red Shirts are opponents of the establishment and long time supporters of Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra whose governments have both been overthrown in coups. 

Since the ruling junta overthrew Yingluck's government, the number of cases of people detained for lese-majeste -- either awaiting trial or already sentenced -- has jumped.

The exact number of detainees has not, however, been made public.

Release on bail is systemically denied for those charged and all lese-majeste trials since the coup have been held on camera in front of military courts, where there is no right to appeal.

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