[JURIST] A military court in Thailand on Monday sentenced web editor Nut Rungwong to four-and-a-half years in jail for publishing an article five years ago that the court ruled defamed the nation’s king. Thailand’s lese-majeste law, which punishes people who defame, insult or threaten the monarchy, is one of the harshest in the world with jail terms of up to 15 years. Rungwong’s sentence was cut in half [Guardian report] because he pleaded guilty to the charge. Rungwong edited the Thai E-News website which is now blocked by censors. He was charged for publishing an article in 2009 written by Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a former university political scientist and radical Thai intellectual who fled to Britain in 2009.
There has been a recent rise in lese-majeste charges in Thailand. Earlier this month a university student was sentenced [JURIST report] to two-and-a-half years in prison for posting a message on Facebook that the court said insulted the nation’s king. Last month a prominent Thai scholar was charged with insulting the monarchy [JURIST report] for comments and criticism of King Naresuan that he made during a recent academic seminar. In August the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] that the prosecution and sentencing of lese-majeste cases by Thailand’s ruling military junta threatens citizens’ rights of free expression. According to the press release, 13 new cases have been opened for investigation under lese-majeste laws, which prohibit speech that is defamatory to the monarchy, since the May 22 coup [JURIST report] that ousted the previous government. Defendants in these cases have included university students participating in plays as well as a man sentenced to 15 years in prison for messages he posted on Facebook.