A political activist arrested in Thailand for selling satirical calendars featuring yellow ducks has been sentenced to two years in prison for insulting King Maha Vajiralongkorn, a legal assistance group has said.
Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws are among the world’s strictest and carry penalties of up to 15 years in prison for each perceived royal insult. Hundreds of people have been arrested or jailed under the law, some for as long as 43 years.
The yellow rubber duck is a symbol of an anti-government protest movement that in 2020 launched an unprecedented bid to try to reform the monarchy in Thailand, where the king is constitutionally “enthroned in a position of revered worship.”
The activist, whose lawyer requested he not be identified, was sentenced to three years in prison, which was reduced to two as his testimony was deemed useful, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, which has represented dozens of people charged with lèse-majesté in the past two years.
He was arrested in December 2020 after police raided his home and found yellow duck calendars he had been selling online.
“He denies the charges because he did not produce the calendars and the contents of the calendar do not have characteristics that would violate article 112,” the lawyer, Yaowalak Anuphan, told Reuters, adding his client was free on bail and plans to appeal.
Article 112 has, until recently, been a taboo topic, off-limits for debate in Thailand, but youth activists have started to discuss it on social media and in public, while some have pressed political parties to make it an election campaign issue this year.
Human rights groups accuse authorities of being overzealous in their application of the law, which successive governments have argued is necessary to protect the palace. The royal household typically does not comment on the law.