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Thai Supreme Court convicts opposition leader for defaming PM

[JURIST] Thailand's Supreme Court [official website] sentenced opposition leader Jatuporn Prompan to one year in prison for defaming Thailand's current prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [BBC Profile]. Jatuporn, a leader of the "red shirt" opposition party, which supports two of Thailand's formerly ousted prime ministers, was convicted [Reuters report] for calling Abhisit a "murderer" during a rally. Abhisit said [Bangkok Times report] that Jatuporn's statement damaged his reputation. The Supreme Court, overruling two lower court decisions, said that Jatuporn was guilty because his statement had not been fact-checked.

Thailand's enforcement of laws stifling free speech has become increasingly prevalent within this year alone. In May Thailand ordered [JURIST report] Facebook to remove posts about the king. That same month a Thai human rights lawyer was charged [JURIST report] for insulting the royal family. In February the Supreme Court of Thailand upheld [JURIST report] the sentence of a former magazine editor who published stories criticizing the royal family. Earlier in February human rights groups urged the Thai Army to drop defamation charges [JURIST report] against three activists. Prior to that, UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye called on [JURIST report] Thai authorities Tuesday to cease using royal defamation laws to counter free speech that is critical of the royal family.

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