Activist Sopon Surariddhidhamrong has been sentenced to 3 years and 6 months in prison for a speech during a 22 April 2022 protest in which the court claimed he insulted Queen Suthida.
Sopon Surariddhidhamrong (Photo from TLHR)
Sopon was charged with royal defamation and using a sound amplifier without permission for a speech he gave at a protest on 22 April 2022. The complaint against him was filed by Anon Klinkaew, a member of the ultra-royalist group People’s Centre to Protect the Monarchy, who said Sopon insulted Queen Suthida by speaking inappropriately about her during his speech.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that Sopon was giving a speech through a small megaphone from the Democracy Monument after police blocked protesters, injuring one. He criticised police operation and mentioned Queen Suthida’s trip to a temple.
He was arrested on 1 May 2022 while was leaving a Labour Day event in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC). He was subsequently denied bail and held in pre-trial detention for a month before being granted bail on the condition that he only leave his residence with court permission for educational and medical reasons.
TLHR said today (23 August) that the Criminal Court found Sopon guilty of royal defamation on the grounds that he mentioned Queen Suthida during his speech with the intent to damage her and the King’s reputation. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison.
The Court also found him guilty of using a sound amplifier without permission and sentenced him to 6 months in prison, bringing his total sentence to 3 years and 6 months. TLHR noted that, under the Sound Amplifier Act, the penalty for the charge is a fine of 200 baht.
Sopon has requested bail in order to file an appeal. However, the Criminal Court forwarded his bail request to the Appeal Court. He will be detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison until a decision is reached.