[JURIST] A military court in Thailand Tuesday sentenced a businessman to 25 years in prison for posting messages critical of the Thai royal family on Facebook. Theinsutham Suthijittaseranee was found guilty [AP report] of five counts of of lèse majesté [BBC backgrounder], with each count garnering a 10-year sentence. The sentence was reduced by half as a result of Thiensutham pleading guilty to the charges. Thailand is home to one of the strictest lèse majesté laws in the world. Article 112 [text] of Thailand’s criminal code states that anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” Following a military coup [BBC report] last May, the military government decreed that all cases involving lèse majesté allegations would be tried before a military court. The sentence has drawn harsh criticism [AI report] from human rights groups, which have called for the lèse majesté law to be repealed or changed to better comply with human rights.
The military government put in place following the May 2014 coup has been criticized by world leaders for disregarding human rights. Earlier this week Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha [BBC backgrounder] announced [JURIST report] plans to revoke the country’s long-standing Martial Law Act BE 2457 (1914) [text, PDF; JURIST report], calling on King Bhumibol Adulyadej [BBC backgrounder] for approval. In March the Bangkok Military Court sentenced [JURIST report] 67-year-old Opas Chansuksai to 18 months in prison for insulting the monarchy under the nation’s lèse majesté laws. 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 threaten citizens’ rights of free expression.