BANGKOK – A Thai military court sentenced 48-year-old Pongsak Sriboonpeng to 30 years in jail Friday on charges of insulting the country’s highly revered monarchy.
The Military Court of Bangkok had originally handed the defendant a 60-year term but commuted it because Mr. Pongsak Sriboonpeng confessed to lese-majeste.
The judge sentenced Pongsak, a tour operator, to ten years for each of the six posts he made about the monarchy on Facebook.
Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen, a lawyer for advocacy group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, said the defendant admitted to creating a Facebook alias to distribute six posts that were deemed insulting to the monarchy and to being part of an anti-establishment group.
Since the crime happened while the kingdom remains under martial law, the convicted has no rights to appeal.
Thailand has some of the harshest lese-majeste laws in the world, designed to protect the country’s highly revered monarch and his family, which the ruling junta views as above politics. The crime is liable to a jail term from 3 to 15 years.
Since the ruling Thai junta overthrew the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra last year, the number of cases of people detained for lese-majeste, either awaiting trial or already sentenced has risen exponentially.
Judges have also considerably extended the scope of the law, by including other members of the royal family beyond the king, the queen, the heir or the regent specified in article 112 and even monarchs who reigned centuries ago.
According to the Asian Correspondent, the Thai military government is fighting against lèse majesté suspects at multiple fronts: evidently, social media is under increased surveillance and Facebook itself reported a sharp increase of blocked content in the second half of 2014, while it also states that Thai authorities have requested information of certain Facebook users three times.
The junta is hunting Thai numerous activists charged with lèse majesté that have fled abroad, often resulting in diplomatic spats and other repeated requests to countries that have granted asylum to the prosecuted suspects.
Critics say the Thai military, which toppled the civilian government last year, has been using the law to target political enemies.