Thai man jailed for six years over Facebook posts

Man jailed over two pictures deemed insulting to king, as army arrests four others over protest bid.

    Anyone convicted of insulting a member of the royal family can face up to 15 years in jail on each count [Reuters]
    Anyone convicted of insulting a member of the royal family can face up to 15 years in jail on each count [Reuters]

    A court in Thailand has sentenced a man to six years in prison for violating the country's royal defamation laws over Facebook posts deemed offensive to the king.

    Bangkok Criminal Court said on Wednesday that 46-year-old Piya Julkittiphan was convicted for posting two pictures with messages in 2013 that risked making the public "disrespectful or unfaithful" to the monarchy.

    "The judge sentenced him to nine years but he has given useful testimony during the investigation so the court commuted one third of that sentence to six years' imprisonment," the court said in its verdict.

    It did not provide details on the content of the posts, as is common in Thai convictions for insulting members of the royal family.

    The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group described Piya as a former stockbroker who was first arrested in December 2014 and has since been in custody.


    READ MORE: Man arrested in Thailand over Facebook posts


    King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88, the world's longest-serving monarch, is shielded from criticism by some of the world's harshest royal defamation laws. Anyone convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent - under laws known as lese majeste - can face up to 15 years in jail on each count.

    Last year two people received 25 and 30-year sentences over Facebook posts in record-breaking jail terms that drew international condemnation.

    Last month a man was arrested for allegedly making a satirical online remark about the recent death of the king's favourite dog.

    As of early December, at least 61 people have been prosecuted for insulting the monarchy, according to local human rights group iLaw.

    Activists arrested

    In a separate crackdown on dissent, Thai authorities said on Thursday that they arrested four members of an activist group for attempting to carry out a protest over alleged corruption.

    Sirawith Serithiwat, a student activist from the New Democracy Movement, was taken into custody on Wednesday, and three other members of the group were arrested the next day while protesting outside a police station over Serithiwat's arrest.

    They were taken to military court to be charged with violating an order banning groups of five or more people from gathering for political purposes.

    Last month the students were blocked en route to a protest at the multimillion-dollar Rajabhakti Park, a sprawling concrete plaza showcasing seven giant bronze statues of former Thai kings that has been at the centre of corruption allegations by some Thai media and opposition groups.


    READ MORE: Anti-junta protesters march in Thai capital


    A defence ministry team looking into the allegations of corruption said last month that it had found financial irregularities in the project but had no authority to investigate wrongdoing.

    Thailand's security forces have curbed basic freedoms and cracked down on critics since taking power in a May 2014 coup.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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