KHON KAEN – A thai Student and Pro-democracy activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa (“Pai Dao Din”), was today sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison, for violating Thailand’s draconian lèse-majesté law.
The Khon Kaen Provincial Courts sentenced Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, 26, or “Pai Dao Din,” to a two-and-a-half-year prison term for sharing a biography of the King produced by BBC Thai on his Facebook account in October 2016. The sentence was reduced from five years, for confessing to the charges.
The trial was held in secret with the press barred from observing courtroom proceedings, unlike other previous lese majeste cases. Jatupat – who won South Korea’s Gwangju Human Rights Award in April – became only the second Thai honoree after Angkhana Neelapaijit to receive the award, but was denied bail and could not attend the ceremony.
Jatupat’s family said they were initially told the sentence would be much lower, according to Isaan Record.
Held without bail since December, Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa was arrested Jatupat was indicted Feb. 10 on counts of lese majeste and violating the Computer Crime Act, to which he pleaded not guilty.
A fourth-year law student at Khon Kaen University at the time of his arrest, Jatupat risked losing out on the opportunity to graduate but was eventually allowed to sit for the necessary exams.
His fellow activists say Jatupat, who belongs to a community rights group called Dao Din, was singled out for his campaigning against the military regime, and they have staged many rallies calling for his freedom in Khon Kaen and Bangkok.
Four of his classmates calling for his release were charged with contempt of court in March.
Reacting to the guilty verdict against pro-democracy activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa (“Pai Dao Din”), Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Campaigns Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:
“This verdict shows the extremes to which the authorities are prepared to go in using repressive laws to silence peaceful debate, including on Facebook. It is outrageous that Pai Dao Din is now facing more than two years behind bars just for sharing a news article.
“Pai Dao Din should never have had to face trial in the first place. His guilty plea should not be considered as an admission of criminal responsibility as the courts regularly halve sentences for defendants who have pleaded guilty in such cases. Pai Dao Din must be released immediately and unconditionally.
“Thailand needs to stop using the courts to harass and imprison peaceful activists, and take its international legal obligation to respect freedom of expression seriously.”