Thai Parliamentarian sentenced to six years in prison for criticizing the Monarchy
Yasemin Beyza Uçar
South and East Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
Thailand has one of the strictest lese majeste laws, which prohibits criticizing the King and the Queen, and each offense can lead to a minimum of three to a maximum amount of fifteen years in prison, which makes it risky to talk about the royal family. Those convicted under Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code can be sentenced for decades and hundreds of people have already been prosecuted in recent years (Helen Regan,2023).
The latest example is a Thai Member of Parliament who has recently been sentenced to six years in jail for posting critical tweets about the Monarchy of Thailand. The 29-year-old Rukchanok Srinork from Thailand’s ‘Move Forward party’ (MFP) pleaded not to be guilty of her critical tweets about the Monarchy. Srinork’s party won the election in 2023 and urged a change of the lese-majeste laws. Now, she is granted bail worth 14,000 USD pending an appeal, under one condition which requires her not to repeat the violation (Jonathan Head, 2023).
Despite winning the elections, the party could not establish a functioning government as the unelected senate used the MFP’s criticism about the lese-majeste laws as an excuse to prevent the party’s bid (Manas Joshi, 2023).
Now, if Srinork loses the appeal, she will be jailed for 6 years and lose her seat in the Parliament. The six years are composed of three years under Article 112 of the Thai penal code and three years for breaching the Computer Crimes Act charge. The two charges refer to posts made on X, previously known as Twitter. The first post called for action to wear black on King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday and the second re-tweet was about a post that critiqued a government policy providing a COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing contract to a private company owned by the King (Sebastian Strangio, 2023).
Rukchanok Srinork, also known as ‘Ice’ gained political status in 2020 and 2021, when the anti-government protest took place in Bangkok and other cities within Thailand. These demonstrations caused many challenges to the Future Forward Party, which then caused a court order to dissolve the party. The former leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit was similarly charged with the strict lese-majeste laws for criticizing the government’s COVID-19 vaccine procurement policy. As a consequence of all these incidents, the MFP fought for the abolition of Article 112, arguing that it suppresses legitimate calls for democratic reform (Sebastian Strangio, 2023).
According to statistics that have been tracked by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, more than 259 people have been charged since the protest movement in 2020 for insulting or criticizing the Monarchy. Ice said that she is the voice that supports her party’s policy to reform the law in such a way that it will follow international democratic principles (Rebecca Ratcliffe, 2023).
Sources and further readings:
Helen Regan. (2023, September 19). Thai King’s son signals willingness to talk about country’s strict royal insult law as he attends lese majeste exhibition. CNN World. Retrieved December 19, 2023, from Vacharaesorn Vivacharawongse: Thai King's son signals willingness to talk about lese majeste as he attends exhibition | CNN
Jonathan Head. (2023, December 14). Thai MP convicted for posts insulting the monarchy. BBC News. Retrieved December 19, 2023, from Thai MP convicted for posts insulting the monarchy - BBC News
Manas Joshi. (2023, December 13). Thai woman MP handed six-year jail sentence for 'insult' to monarchy. WION News. Retrieved December 19, 2023, from Thai woman MP handed six-year jail sentence for 'insult' to monarchy - World News (wionews.com)
Sebastian Strangio. (2023, December 14). Thai Parliamentarian Sentenced to 6 Years Imprisonment For Insulting King. The Diplomat. Retrieved December 19, 2023, from Thai Parliamentarian Sentenced to 6 Years Imprisonment For Insulting King – The Diplomat
Rebecca Ratcliffe. (2023, December 13). Thai MP given six-year prison sentence for insulting monarchy. The Guardian. Retrieved December 19, 2023, from Thai MP given six-year prison sentence for insulting monarchy | Thailand | The Guardian