Thai activist gets prison for sharing king’s profile on FB

A student activist in Thailand has received a prison term of two-and-a-half years after sharing a profile of King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Facebook.

Jatupat Boonpattararaksa pleaded guilty to charges of defaming the monarchy.

He was arrested for sharing the profile, published by BBC Thai, two days after the new king ascended the throne in December 2016.

Thailand has very strict lese-majeste laws, which ban any criticism of the country’s monarchy.

Mr Jatupat, an opponent of the military-backed government who has taken part in numerous protests, is the only person to be prosecuted over the article.

He was one of more than 2,600 people to share the online profile of King Vajiralongkorn, 64.

In December, Mr Jatupat was charged with defaming the monarchy and detained in north-eastern Thailand. The court in Khon Kaen later denied at least 10 requests for his release on bail.

The student, who had initially contested the charges, agreed on Tuesday to plead guilty. He was facing up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Pleading guilty in lese-majeste cases can significantly reduce sentences in Thailand, where punishment can be severe; in June, one man was jailed for 35 years.

The United Nations has joined human rights groups in criticising the heavy sentences imposed at lese-majeste trials, which have a conviction rate of more than 90% and are often held behind closed doors.

Earlier this year, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Thailand to amend its laws.

Since the country’s military coup in 2014, more than one hundred people have been charged with defaming the monarchy.

King Vajiralongkorn’s father, the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, died on 13 October at the age of 88 after seven decades on the throne. (Courtesy BBC)


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