Thai activist jailed for 15 years for royal slur

AFP , Thursday 15 Dec 2011

Commentators accuse Thailand of increasing the use of its lese majesty legislation to suppress freedom of expression after a ‘Red Shirt’ activist was handed a 15-year prison sentence for insulting the country's monarchy

Thai anti-government "red shirt" protesters gather during a rally at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok April 10, 2011. (Photo:Reuters)

A court in Thailand sentenced a "Red Shirt" political activist to 15 years in prison Thursday for insulting the monarchy, the latest in a series of convictions under the kingdom's lese majeste laws.

Daranee Charnchoengsilapakul, a hardcore supporter of Thailand's ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was accused of defaming the royals during speeches at political rallies in 2008.

"The Criminal Court convicted her on three counts as she committed offences on three different occasions, and sentenced her to five years for each," her lawyer Prawais Prapannugool told AFP.

"She said she will not appeal her sentence because she lost her faith in the judicial system and she is convinced that she will not receive a fair trial," he added.

The activist -- better known as "Da Torpedo" because of her hard-hitting speeches -- was sentenced to 18 years in jail in 2009, but an appeals court ordered a retrial because the hearings were held behind closed doors.

Critics accuse Thailand of increasing the use of its lese majeste legislation to suppress freedom of expression, particularly under the last government, which was supported by the Bangkok-based elite.

Observers say the new administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra -- Thaksin's sister, who took power in August -- has yet to improve the situation.

A 61-year-old Thai man was jailed last month for 20 years for sending text messages deemed insulting to the monarchy, while a US citizen was handed two-and-a-half years in prison last week for defaming the king.

Mass protests in April and May 2010 by Thaksin's "Red Shirt" supporters in the heart of Bangkok left 90 people dead in street clashes between demonstrators and the army.

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