[JURIST] A Thai provincial court in the north eastern province of Khon Kaen sentenced [NYT report] activist Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa [FrontlineDefenders profile] to two-and-a-half years in prison for sharing a BBC article about Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun [official profile] on Facebook on Tuesday. The article concerned personal details concerning Maha’s life as the crown prince, including information from three past marriages that ended in divorce. Poonsuk plead guilty to the charge after his counsel recommended he do so in light of the court’s repeated denials of bail. Had Poonsuk not plead guilty, commentators stated he likely would have been sentenced to five years in prison.
Thailand’s enforcement of lese majeste laws and stifling of free speech has become increasingly prevalent in the past few years. In February the Supreme Court of Thailand upheld [JURIST report] the sentence of a former magazine editor who published stories criticizing the royal family under the lese majeste laws. 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. In December the Thailand Parliament passed [JURIST report] a controversial cyber-crimes bill that gave the government the right to obtain user data without court approval, which rights groups feared would give the government unrestricted power to police the web and suppress criticism. In September Thailand’s Bangkok South Criminal Court found [JURIST report] British labor rights activist Andy Hall guilty of criminal defamation and violating cyber crime laws. About a week earlier the same month Thailand’s military government announced [JURIST report] that it will prosecute cases concerning national security and “royal insult” in civilian courts, as opposed to military courts where the cases have been tried since 2014.