BANGKOK (AFP) – A lawmaker from Thailand’s toppled ruling party was jailed for two-and-a-half years on Wednesday for defaming the royal family, the latest in a series of such convictions since the army grabbed power.
Prasit Chaisrisa, 49, a former MP for the Peau Thai party, confessed to committing lese majeste during a speech to “Red Shirt” supporters of the then-government, shortly before it was toppled in a May coup.
“The judge initially sentenced him to five years in prison but halved the term because he confessed,” a Bangkok Criminal Court official told AFP.
His comments cannot be reported as they would be in breach of Thailand’s lese majeste law – one of the world’s toughest – that shields the king, queen, heir or regent.
Anyone found to have defamed, insulted or threatened them faces up to 15 years in jail for each count. Thai media outlets frequently censor themselves to avoid falling foul of the law.
Prasit, a former lawmaker for the impoverished northeastern province of Surin, was arrested just days after the May 22 coup and initially denied the charge.
He changed his plea in hopes of a lighter sentence.
“The suspect is a two-time MP and must be… more prudent than ordinary people before speaking,” the judge said, giving his ruling.
Since ousting the elected government, junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha has repeatedly vowed to crack down on anyone who insults the monarchy, which attracts deep loyalty among the military and Bangkok-based establishment.