A 23-year-old student has been sentenced to 2 years in prison for royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act, after the Criminal Court ruled that although the royal defamation law does not explicitly state that it covers only the current king, defaming King Bhumibol is still an offence under the law as it affects King Vajiralongkorn.
“Jai,” (pseudonym), a 23-year-old university student, was charged in February 2021 with royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act for tweeting a picture of the late King Bhumibol and the message “You don’t have to remember who I am. Just remember what I did,” along with a hashtag about King Bhumibol.
The complaint against Jai was filed by Aree Jiworarak, who was acting for the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society. She was indicted in November 2021, after the public prosecutor ruled that her tweet meant that King Bhumibol was a murderer, and that monarchs are a waste or should not exist in Thai society.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that, on Tuesday (14 March), Jai was found guilty of royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act, after the Criminal Court ruled that the tweet violates King Bhumibol, since it can be taken to mean that he was a murderer, and even though the royal defamation law does not explicitly state that it covers only the reigning king, the tweet still constitutes an offence under the law because it affects his son King Vajiralongkorn.
Jai was sentenced to 3 years in prison. However, the Court ruled that, since Jai was only 19 years old in 2020 when the tweet was made, it reduced her sentence to 2 years.
She was later granted bail to appeal her case using a security of 100,000 baht, in addition to the 10,000 baht placed when she was indicted, covered by the Will of the People bail fund. The court did not set any additional conditions.
Jai told TLHR in an interview before she was sentenced that she felt the process was unfair. She said that the royal defamation law has been so widely interpreted that anyone can be charged with it, and anyone can file a complaint. Meanwhile, several political parties have yet to answer the demand to repeal the law.
Jai said that even prosecution witnesses who testified in her case didn’t agree on who is covered by the royal defamation law, and that it needs to be made clear who can use it. She also asked why this law cannot be criticized.
Despite the charges against her, Jai said she still supports the call for the royal defamation law to be repealed or amended.