CHIANGRAI TIMES – A Thai political activist already serving a seven and a half year sentence under controversial royal insult laws was given an extra two and a half years for similar charges Friday, an official said.
The Criminal Court in Bangkok found Surachai Danwattananusorn guilty of insulting the monarchy during several public speeches he gave to supporters of his “Red Siam” movement in 2010.
“He was given five years this morning but the judge commuted the sentence because he admitted the charge,” the court spokesman said.
Surachai was previously sentenced in February over speeches made between 2008 and 2010.
The activist was head of Red Siam, a hardcore offshoot of the Red Shirt movement, which is broadly loyal to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by royalist generals in a 2006 coup.
Two months of mass anti-government protests by the Red Shirts in Bangkok in 2010 descended into the kingdom’s worst political violence in decades, with more than 90 people killed in a military crackdown.
Surachai’s is the latest in a string of high profile convictions under Thailand’s royal defamation laws – which ban criticism of the king, queen, heir or regent – amid growing calls for reform of the legislation.
The sentencing came ahead of an anticipated verdict on Monday in the closely-watched trial of a web editor facing decades behind bars over remarks about the monarchy posted by other people on her website.
The royal family is a highly sensitive topic in politically turbulent Thailand. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch and revered by many Thais.
Rights groups say the use of the rules to suppress free speech has worsened under the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra – Thaksin’s sister – who rode a wave of support among Red Shirts in an election last year.