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Student activist Benja Apan has been sentenced to prison with a two-year suspension for a royal defamation charge resulting from a speech she gave during a protest on 10 August 2021.

On 30 October 2023, the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court ruled that the student activist violated the royal defamation law and Emergency Decree at a 10 August 2021 protest organised by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD).

Benja was sentenced to three years in prison for the defamation charge and one year with a 12,000 baht fine for the Emergency Decree violation. The court reduced the sentence to two years and eight months, with a two-year suspension, and an 8,000 Baht fine, because she has never been imprisoned and was only 21 years old at the time of the incident.

The court asserted that her speech directly targeted King Vajiralongkorn and amounted to defamation of the King. It refused to accept her testimony that her intention was not to criticise the king but rather the administration of former PM Prayut Chan-o-cha.

During the protest, Benja read out the 2nd UFTD Declaration which stated that the 2014 coup led by Gen Prayut resulted in a regime which only benefited only the elite. The statement also criticised the governments mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic and called for it to properly handle the pandemic, revitalise the economy, repeal the 2017 Constitution, push forward with reforms of state institutions including the monarchy, and return dignity to the people.

A complaint was filed by members of the People’s Centre for the Protection of Monarchy on 12 August 2021. Benja was arrested on 7 October 2021 after she went to meet the inquiry officer at Lumpini Police Station to hear a charge of violating the Emergency Decree for participating in the 3 September protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection. She did not receive a summons before being arrested.

The activist was taken to the court on 8 October 2021 and denied bail three times before being granted bail on 14 January 2022. She was indicted for the charges on 3 December 2021.

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