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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Two jailed for insulting monarchy

Patiwat Saraiyaem is escorted by Thai corrections officers upon arrival at Criminal Court in Bangkok (AP)
Patiwat Saraiyaem is escorted by Thai corrections officers upon arrival at Criminal Court in Bangkok (AP)

Two theatre activists have been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison each for insulting Thailand's monarchy.

The pair were involved in producing a play called The Wolf Bride, about a fictional monarch and his adviser. It was performed at Bangkok's Thammasat University in 2013 to mark the anniversary of a successful 1973 anti-dictatorship uprising led by students.

Thailand's lese majeste law is the world's harshest, carrying a punishment of three to 15 years in jail for anyone who defames, insults, or threatens the monarchy.

Anyone can file a complaint with police, and the charge has frequently been used as a weapon to harass political enemies. In this case, a group calling itself the Royal Monarch Alert Protection Network filed the complaint.

The pair, a university student and a recent graduate who are both in their 20s, have been in jail since last August and their bail requests were repeatedly turned down by a Bangkok court. Both pleaded guilty, a common practice in lese majeste cases, in December.

Announcing the verdict, a Bangkok criminal court judge said the play contained content that insulted and defamed the monarchy and was shown in front of a large number of spectators.

Pawinee Chumsri, the pair's lawyer, told reporters the pair were not likely to appeal.

The military-installed government that seized power from an elected administration in last May's coup has made defending the monarchy a priority to ensure stability toward the end of 87-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej's reign.

Press Association

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