Parents of former Thailand princess arrested for defamation of royal family

Parents of former Thailand princess arrested for defamation of royal family

[JURIST] The parents Thailand’s former crown princess Srirasmi Suwadee were arrested Friday after confessing to defamation of the royal family in violation of the nation’s lese majeste law [BBC report]. The law, which criminalizes defamation to protect the royal family, carries with it a maximum sentence of 15 years in jail. Srirasmi’s parents, Apiruj and Wanthanee, confessed to having a neighbor arrested on false fraud charges twelve years ago. With the arrest of her parents, Srirasmi has seen nine family members arrested, including her sister [Khaosod report], who was sentenced to two-and-a-half years jail time for citing her status as sister of the then-princess to sell overpriced food products, and her uncle [BBC report], who was sentenced to 31 years for gambling, extortion and kidnapping. Thailand has seen a rise in lese majeste charges since the nation experienced a military takeover [CNN backgrounder] in May 2014.

Thailand has faced political instability since the May 22 coup, and the junta has been accused of violating human rights in its attempts to maintain order. Martial law was instituted on May 20, two days before the coup [JURIST report] that ousted the former Thai government and installed General Prayuth Chan-ocha [BBC profile] as the country’s new prime minister. Since then, political demonstrations have been banned, and hundreds have been arrested for protesting the junta. A group of Thai human rights activists denounced the country’s state of martial law earlier this week, accusing the ruling military junta of imposing a judicial “twilight zone” [JURIST report]. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern [JURIST report] in August that the junta is limiting free expression by prosecuting lese-majeste cases for defamation of the royal family. Independent UN human rights experts also called on [JURIST report] the new government to address its alleged human rights violations in June.