Thailand: Political activist gets 15 years jail under lèse-majesté

Despite mounting public criticism on lèse-majesté, Thailand’s Criminal Court sentenced Red shirt activist Daranee Charncherngsilapakul, widely known as “Da Torpedo”, to 15 years in jail for three offences after rejecting her appeal. She was formerly convicted to 18 years in jail in a closed trial in August 2009, after spending more than a year in detention for making a fiery speech opposing the 2006 military coup and the monarchy in a public rally.

According to a report on 15 December, Daranee, said that she found it useless to fight the conviction, while her lawyer Prawais Praphanukul said he would discuss with her about applying for a royal pardon.

“There are two channels open, normal procedure by simply allowing the 30-day appeal limit to lapse, or a quicker way, by sending a document to the court indicating that the defendant abandons the right to appeal. After that, we will have to go through the proper channels for a royal pardon,” said Prawais.

Since the court convicted the 61-years-old Amphon Tangnoppakhun to 20 years in jail on 23 November for four “lèse-majesté” sms messages sent from his phone, public criticism of the law and the judgement has been taking place in Facebook, the media and, on one occasion, on the street. Amphon’s age, and that the court ignored his pleading of not guilty and gave him the maximum sentence on the basis of him being the phone owner, caught public sympathy. A day before Daranee’s sentencing, the Court Spokesperson Sitthisak Wanachakij sent out to the media a defense of Amphon’s case judgement, stressing that channels for appeal are open to him.

In the meantime, the Judge who sentenced Amphon, Chanathip Muanphawong, quashed Daranee’s appeal.

The Yingluck administration, sworn to office in August, has not been supportive of calls to reform the lèse-majesté law. As recently as 13 December, news website Prachatai reported that Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung asked the government for 400 million baht (8.2 million GBP) to procure a technology to crackdown on lèse-majesté websites. He also received a petition by the Lawyers Council of Thailand, who urged the Information Ministry and the police to buck up in clamping down online lèse-majesté.