Thai democracy activist sentenced to more jail time for ‘royal insults’

Lawyer Arnon Nampa is already serving a four-year sentence for comments about the monarchy made at a rally in 2020.

Arnon Nampa, a prominent activist and former human rights lawyer,
Arnon Nampa, a prominent activist and human rights lawyer [File: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]

A court in Thailand has sentenced a jailed activist and lawyer to four more years in prison for royal insults from a 2021 social media post, his lawyer said.

Arnon Nampa, 39, was handed the four-year sentence on Wednesday in one of the country’s high-profile lese majeste cases. He is already serving a four-year sentence since September for his comments about the monarchy in a speech during a 2020 rally.

“Arnon has denied wrongdoing,” his lawyer Kritsadang Nutcharat said, adding they would appeal and, if necessary, take the case to the Supreme Court.

The two sentences would run consecutively, so Arnon is set to serve eight years.

Thailand’s lese majeste law safeguards its palace from any criticism, with royal insults penalised for a maximum jail sentence of up to 15 years for each perceived insult.

The law has been criticised by international human rights groups as extreme.

The verdict on Wednesday is the second in 14 cases against Arnon, a human rights lawyer, who has led a democracy movement that held protests in Bangkok in 2020, calling for reform of the monarchy.

He has chosen not to request bail for his cases and stayed in jail after the court rejected a previous request on the grounds that he would escape.

At least 262 people have been charged with lese majeste offences since 2020, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a legal aid group.

The verdict is a setback for groups seeking to amend the lese majeste law, which was a key policy proposal by the progressive Move Forward Party that won the most seats in parliament in May elections, but was blocked from forming a government by conservative lawmakers and an unelected Senate.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies