[JURIST] A Thai court sentenced university student Akkaradet Eiamsuwan to two-and-a-half years in prison for posting a message on Facebook that the court said insulted the country’s king. The criminal court judge found Eiamsuwan guilty of violating the nation’s lese majeste law, which punishes people who defame, insult or threaten the monarchy. Thailand’s lese-majeste law is one of the harshest, providing for jail terms of three to 15 years. Eiamsuwan, who used an alias to post the Facebook message in March, was originally sentenced to five years in prison, but the court said it reduced his sentence [AP report] by half because he confessed to the offense.
There has been a recent rise in lese-majeste charges in Thailand. 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.