Thai man faces a record 50 years in jail for insulting the monarchy

BANGKOK — A 30-year-old Thai man is facing a record 50 years in prison for insulting the royal family based on dozens of social media posts perceived as criticizing the monarchy, his lawyer said, after an appeals court on Thursday added more jail time to his initial conviction.

Mongkol “Busbas” Thirakot, an online clothing vendor from northern Chiang Rai province, was handed 22 years of jail time after an appeals court found more royal insult violations, adding to a 28-year sentence handed down by a criminal court last year.

Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, one of the strictest in the world, protects the palace from criticism and carries a jail sentence of up to 15 years for each perceived violation, a punishment condemned by international human rights groups as extreme.

Mongkol was arrested in April 2021 and received a 28-year sentence last January for 14 violations of lèse-majesté. The appeals court confirmed his prior conviction and found him guilty of 11 more violations.

Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, which protects King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his close family from criticism, is referred to as 112 after the relevant section of the criminal code.

“He faces 50 years’ jail, the longest in the history of Article 112 cases,” Theeraphon Khoomsap, Mongkol’s lawyer, told Reuters.

Theeraphon said Mongkol denies wrongdoing and will appeal his sentence to the Supreme Court.

The previous record conviction of lèse-majesté was in 2021 when Anchan Preelert, a retired civil servant, was handed an 87-year jail term for 29 counts of royal insult. Her sentence was reduced to 43 years because she acknowledged her violations.

According to legal aid group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, at least 262 people have been charged with lèse-majesté offenses since 2020, when unprecedented youth-led street demonstrations erupted in which protest leaders openly criticized the monarchy.

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