Woman In Thailand Receives Record 43-Year Prison Sentence For Criticising Monarchy
A woman in Thailand has been handed a record prison sentence of 43 years and six months for criticising the monarchy.
The former civil servant - identified only by her first name Anchan - was found guilty of 29 counts of violating the country's lèse-majesté laws, which make it illegal to defame, insult or threaten the monarchy.
Anchan was sentenced today (19 January) for sharing audio clips on Facebook and YouTube that were deemed critical of the monarchy.
The court initially announced her sentence as 87 years, but halved it because she pled guilty.
Anchan originally denied the charges and was held in prison between January 2015 and November 2018.
She was arrested after working as a civil servant for 40 years, with only one year left until her retirement - and the conviction means she loses her pension.
Speaking outside of court, she told reporters she pleaded guilty when her case was transferred from a military court to a criminal court in the hope of being treated with leniency, given that she only shared the audio, and did not upload or comment on it.
According to Channel News Asia, she said: "I thought it was nothing. There were so many people who shared this content and listened to it. The guy [who made the content] had done it for so many years.
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"So I didn't really think this through and was too confident and not being careful enough to realise at the time that it wasn't appropriate."
Thailand's lèse-majesté laws are controversial, as they can see someone convicted for as little as liking a Facebook post. Over the past year, growing anti-monarchy sentiment has been building and authorities initially allowed it to go unchecked; however, since November, 50 people have been arrested and charged under lèse-majesté laws.
The previous longest sentence under these laws was issued in 2017, with a man being sent down for 35 years for social media posts about the monarchy that were deemed defamatory.
Human rights groups have heavily condemned Anchan's record-breaking sentence.
Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for the group Human Rights Watch, said: "Today's court verdict is shocking and sends a spine-chilling signal that not only will criticisms of the monarchy not be tolerated, but they will also be severely punished.
"It can be seen that Thai authorities are using lèse-majesté prosecution as their last resort measure in response to the youth-led democracy uprising that seeks to curb the king's powers and keep him within the bound of constitutional rule.
"Thailand's political tensions will now go from bad to worse."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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