Thai activist jailed 2 years for posting ‘offensive’ BBC article

A Thai student activist was
jailed for two and a half years on Tuesday for posting on
Facebook a BBC article deemed offensive to Thailand’s king, his
lawyer said.

Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, also known as Pai, an activist and
critic of the ruling junta, was the first person to be charged
with royal insult, known as lese-majeste, after new King Maha
Vajiralongkorn formally ascended the throne on Dec. 1, following
the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Jatupat, a former law student, was arrested on December 3 and
charged for posting a BBC Thai language profile of the king
which some deemed offensive.

He was also charged with violating a computer crime law for
posting a link to the BBC report, which was shared by more than
2,000 people.

He pleaded guilty to the charges against him earlier on
Tuesday, prompting the court to bring forward its verdict.

“The court sentenced Pai to five years in prison, reduced to
two and a half years,” Kissandang Nutcharat, Jatupat’s lawyer,
told Reuters.

“Pai confessed … He knew that if he tried to fight the
charges it would not be of any use.”

A representative for the BBC in Thailand said he could not
immediately comment on the verdict.

Thailand’s military government took power after a 2014 coup
against a democratically elected government.

Since then, the detention of people accused of royal insult
has increased sharply.

Last week, a man was jailed for 18 years for posting six
video clips deemed insulting to the monarchy.

International rights groups have accused the authorities in
Thailand of using broad laws to silence critics. Some political
commentators have said the laws have been used to shield
governments and the military from criticism.

“It appears that Jatupat was singled out from the thousands
of people who shared the BBC article, and prosecuted for his
strong opposition to military rule more than for any harm
incurred by the monarchy,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human
Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Anyone can file a lese-majeste complaint against anyone in
Thailand and complaints are almost always investigated by
authorities who fear falling foul of the law themselves.

The laws protecting members of the royal family from insult
limit what all news organizations, including Reuters, can report
from Thailand.

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