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Activist Wanwalee Thammasattaya has been found guilty of royal defamation and sentenced to 2 years and 8 months in prison over a photo she posted of herself and two other people holding signs at a protest.

Wanwalee Thammasattaya (Photo from TLHR)

Wanwalee was charged with royal defamation along with Nueng (pseudonym) and Nam (pseudonym), two other protesters, after a complaint was filed against them by Sukij Dechkul, a member of the ultra-royalist group Thai Phakdee in Chiang Mai. Sukij claimed that a picture Wanwalee posted of herself, Nueng, and Nam at a protest on 21 November 2020 in Bangkok’s Siam shopping district showed them holding signs with messages that insulted the King.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) noted that none of the three defendants live in Chiang Mai, and that the 21 November 2020 protest took place in Bangkok, but because the complaint was filed against them in Chiang Mai, they have had to travel back and forth for police and court appointments for the past three years.

The 21 November 2020 protest was organized by the student rights group Bad Student and other pro-democracy activists. They criticize the government for its inefficiency and for how the education system is failing its students. Wanwalee testified that she posted the picture, which was taken after they were asked by a reporter to hold up the signs for pictures. She said that the sign came from an activity held during the protest where participants can write messages onto pieces of cardboard, and that some messages on the signs were written by someone else. Nueng and Nam, Wanwalee’s then high school friends, were also only tagged in the post, and Wanwalee said they were not involved in making the post, which make her think that the complaint was filed to harass political dissidents.

TLHR reported that Sukij testified that he was President of the Thai Phakdee group’s Chiang Mai chapter, and that he was given the documents used to file the complaint by other members of the group. He also testified that he did not know who posted the picture, but believed the three defendants made the posts together and that he does not know what Facebook’s tag function is.

TLHR said yesterday (10 October) that the Chiang Mai Provincial Court found Wanwalee guilty of royal defamation and sentenced her to 4 years in prison. Her sentence was later reduced to 2 years and 8 months because she gave useful testimony.

The Court ruled that the message on the sign Wanwalee was holding can be read to be about he King, and that she published the photo of the sign on Facebook even though she knew the message insulted the King, dismissing her defence that the message refers to the military and its information operation.

Charges against Nueng and Nam were dismissed. The Court ruled that it was unclear who the messages on the sign they were holding referred to. They also did not like or share the post.

Wanwalee was later granted bail on a security of 150,000 baht in order to file for appeal. She is facing a total of 4 counts of royal defamation and has previously been found guilty of one count for a speech she gave during a protest on 6 December 2020.

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