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Last Monday (27 May), the Supreme Court sentenced Thanaporn, a 24-year-old woman from Uthai Thani, to 2 years in prison on a royal defamation charge for her comments on a Facebook post containing an edited picture of King Ananda Mahidol and King Bhumibol.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the 24-year-old mother of two was arrested on 29 September 2021. She was questioned without a lawyer present before being released on bail using a security of 100,000 baht.  She was also required to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

During her trial, Thanaporn was represented by a lawyer appointed by the Talingchan Criminal Court. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 4 years in prison. Her sentence was reduced to 2 years and suspended for 2 years because she confessed and had never been convicted of a crime. She was required to report to a probation officer 8 times within the 2-year period and perform 24 hours of community service.

Subsequently, however, Chawalit Issaradej, Vice President of the Court of Appeal Region 1 and then-acting Chief Justice of the Talingchan Criminal Court objected to the sentence on the grounds that Thanaporn’s comment defamed the King and damaged the monarchy. Noting that she had completed nine years of schooling and was 21 years old at the time when she made the remark, Chawalit argued that she presumably had a good understanding of Thai culture and must have known how important the monarchy is to the Thai society. Because of this, he felt she did not deserve to have her sentence suspended because her action was “highly inappropriate.” Instead, he insisted that she be imprisoned immediately so that she would learn not to repeat her offence and so others would not commit the same crime, damaging the monarchy and nation security.

On 14 February 2023, the Court of Appeal sentenced Thanaporn to 2 years in prison without suspension. She was released on bail using a security of 100,000 baht. The ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court on 27 May on the grounds that her comment was rude and violated the standing of the royal family, damaging the monarchy and affecting how Thai people view the institution.

Thanaporn’s incarceration brings the number of people detained on charges relating to political expression in Thailand to 44. She is among the 8 people detained on a royal defamation charge following a final verdict from the Supreme Court or a decision not to appeal.

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