A 43-year prison sentence given to a woman by a Thai court for insulting the monarchy could be seen as a “warning shot” to protesters demanding reform in the kingdom, according to analysts.
The sentence passed Tuesday is believed to be the toughest ever imposed under the country’s lese majeste laws and comes after months of youth-led protests last year openly calling for reform of Thailand’s powerful monarchy and greater democratic freedoms. The verdict is likely to send a chill through the movement, which has seen dozens of its protest leaders and activists charged with the same crime.
Thailand has some of the world’s strictest laws against defaming or criticizing the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent. The laws, which are known as lese majeste, can result in a 15-year prison sentence for each violation.
Anchan Preelert, 65, pleaded guilty to sharing audio clips on YouTube and Facebook between 2014 and 2015 that were deemed critical of the kingdom’s royal family, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. She was convicted of 29 counts, with three years for each.
The criminal court in Bangkok handed an initial sentence of 87 years but halved it because of Anchan’s guilty plea.
“The sentence is the highest ever handed down by Thai court from violating Section 112,” said her lawyer Pawinee Chumsri, referring to the lese majeste law.
Pawinee said they would appeal the verdict and were working to secure bail from the Court of Appeal. “There are two more courts we can try on her legal case,” she said.