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Thailand court convicts 'yellow shirts' of defaming ex-PM

A criminal court in Thailand on Thursday convicted two members of the pro-government People's Alliance for Democracy Network [BBC backgrounder], known as "yellow shirts," of defaming former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Yellow shirt movement founder and Thai media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul and his former television co-host Sarocha Pornudomsak were convicted [AFP report] of defaming Thaksin during their television show by accusing him of insulting the monarchy. The two were sentenced [Thai News Agency report] to six months in prison and ordered to pay fines of 20,000 baht (USD $640). The court suspended the sentence for two years, during which time both Sondi and Sarocha will be on probation. Thaksin filed the suit [JURIST report] against Sondhi and several others for their claims that he tried to undermine the monarchy.

Thaksin, who is currently living in exile, has faced a variety of legal issues since the 2006 coup [JURIST report] that removed him from power. Last month, the Supreme Court of Thailand [GlobaLex backgrounder] denied his appeal [JURIST report] contesting the seizure of his assets. Thaksin filed the appeal in March after the Constitutional Court ordered that 46.4 billion baht (USD $1.4 billion) of his fortune be seized [JURIST reports] in February. In July, the criminal division of Supreme Court issued a new arrest warrant [JURIST report] against him. Also in July, Thai police recommended terrorism charges [DPA report] against Thaksin and 24 others for their alleged involvement in the recent political violence [JURIST news archive] in Bangkok. Thaksin is considered the figurehead of the pro-democracy protesters known as the "red shirts," who protested against Thailand's current government and called for elections. The protests ended in May after protesters surrendered to police [JURIST report].

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