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The Appeal Court ruled yesterday (20 October) to uphold the Narathiwat Provincial Court’s ruling to sentence a 28-year-old woman to 6 years in prison for royal defamation.

Kanlaya (pseudonym), a private company employee from Nonthaburi, was found guilty in August 2022 of royal defamation under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code and of bringing into a computer system data which affects national security under Section 14, paragraph 3 of the Computer Crimes Act.

Kanlaya was charged over a number of Facebook posts and comments made in January 2021 about King Vajiralongkorn and the 2020 – 2021 pro-democracy protests. iLaw reported that one of the comments was a post about the film The Treacherous, a Korean period drama film about a tyrannical king.  The post prompted another Facebook user to accuse Kanlaya of insulting King Vajiralongkorn, triggering an online exchange with some of Kanlaya’s friends who disagreed. Kanlaya believes that this led the user to collect information from her Facebook page and file charges against her.

Another post was a picture Kanlaya took during a protest at Wongwian Yai on 17 October 2020 of a message sprayed-painted onto the road. She was also charged for sharing and commenting on posts made by exiled academic Somsak Jeamteerasakul and activist Tanawat Wongchai.

Kanlaya testified that she did not post the messages and that her Facebook account is accessible by people other than herself. She also noted that the evidence provided by the plaintiff included computer screenshots without a URL, date or time stamp - materials that might have been edited and were open to interpretation.

In finding her guilty, the court noted that Kanlaya testified during the police inquiry that she changed the password her Facebook account after breaking up with her former partner in December 2020, implying that she was the only one using the account.

The Court also ruled that as the materials were posted during the monarchy reform protests, they were clearly referring to King Vajiralongkorn, and that their purpose was to cause hatred against the King, affecting national security.

After being granted bail by the Narathiwat Provincial Court, Kanlaya filed an appeal. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said yesterday (20 October) that the Appeal Court ruled to uphold the guilty verdict. She will be detained at the Narathiwat Provincial Prison until the Supreme Court rules on her bail request.

The complaint against Kanlaya was filed by Phasit Chanhuaton, an English tutor in Sungai Kolok and member of the ultra-royalist group Citizens’ Network to Protect the Monarchy. According to  TLHR, Phasit has filed royal defamation complaints against at least 20 people. As none of those he accused live in Narathiwat, all have had to spend a large amount of money and time travelling to attend police and court appointments.

Phasit also filed a complaint against Udom (pseudonym), a 34-year-old man from Prachinburi who works in an electronic component factory.  He was sentenced last week to 4 years in prison for royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act. The Appeal Court ruled on 30 August 2023 to uphold the verdict. He is now detained at the Narathiwat Provincial Prison pending appeal with the Supreme Court.

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