A Thai court jailed a blind woman for up to 18 months on Thursday for violating the country’s royal insult law, her lawyer and a court official said.
Thailand’s lese-majeste law is the toughest in the world and those judged guilty of breaking it face up to 15 years in jail for each count of offending royalty.
Nurhayati Masoh (23) was found guilty after she posted an article on Facebook by Giles Ungpakorn, a Thai-British academic and vocal opponent of the Thai monarchy who fled the country after he was charged with lese majeste in 2009.
“She confessed that she posted it,” said Kaosar Aleemama, a lawyer for Nurhayati, “but she did not realize it would lead to such a harsh punishment.”
Nurhayati was arrested in November and sentenced to three years in jail by a court in the southern province of Yala.
An official at the court said a case against Nurhayati was filed on November 28 and she has been detained ever since. He added the confession led to her sentence being halved.
Thailand’s military, which took control of government in a May 2014 coup, has ramped up online censorship, particularly of perceived insults to the monarchy. Since the coup, at least 94 people have been prosecuted for lese majeste.
As many as 43 people have been sentenced, the iLaw group that monitors royal insult cases said, with 92 per cent of them pleading guilty in hopes of receiving a shorter jail term.
“There may be more cases that we do not know about,” said Yingcheep Atchanont, iLaw’s project manager. Laws protecting the royal family from insult limit what all news organizations can report from Thailand.
The United Nations expressed concern over what it calls a deteriorating rights situation in Thailand, including harsh sentences for those convicted of violating the lese-majeste law, known as Article 112. The junta said it needs to crack down on critics of the monarchy for the sake of national security. – Reuters