BANGKOK (AFP) – Two Thais accused of defaming the monarchy in a university play pleaded guilty on Monday amid an intensifying junta crackdown on perceived royal slurs under the kingdom’s controversial lese majeste law.
Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 87, is shielded by some of the world’s toughest royal defamation rules under which anyone convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.
“Both defendants plead guilty to the charges,” said the judge at Ratchada Criminal Court in northeast Bangkok, adding sentence would be passed on February 23.
Student Patiwat Saraiyaem, 23, and activist Porntip Mankong, 25, were arrested in August, nearly a year after the “The Wolf Bride” play was shown at Bangkok’s Thammasat University.
They were each charged with one count of lese majeste linked to the performance, which marked the 40th anniversary of a pro-democracy student protest that was brutally crushed by authorities in October 1973.
Both accused were brought into court barefoot – Patiwat’s feet bound with chains – at a hearing attended by a few dozen people including their relatives, students and an observer from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Patiwat, a final-year student at Khon Kaen University, acted in the piece – which was about a fictional monarchy – while Porntip co-ordinated the production as well as also playing a small role.