Activist sent to prison for ‘defaming’ Thai king with shared news article

Aug. 15 (UPI) — A student activist has been sentenced to two and-a-half years in prison for sharing an unflattering news article about the Thai king on Facebook.

Jatupat Boonpattaraksa pleaded guilty to charges of defaming the monarchy after he shared a BBC Thai profile of Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn. He has been detained since Dec. 3.

The Bangkok Post reported that Jatupat is a member of Dao Din, a human rights student activist group that has joined with villagers in the northeast to oppose development projects that affect local communities.

The article Jataput was arrested for posting was shared more than 2,000 times, which led Human Rights Watch to contend that the 26-year-old was targeted because of his activism.

“The charges against Jatupat show the Thai junta’s misuse of lese majeste laws to persecute dissenters against military rule,” Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW, said in January. “Thailand’s military rulers have aggressively clamped down on any speech they find objectionable, including what they arbitrarily deem is critical of the monarchy.”

In April, while in prison awaiting his sentence, Jatupat was awarded the 2017 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.

Thailand has strict laws against insulting the royal family and anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” can be punished with up to 15 years in prison — though some have received even lengthier punishments.

A man last week was sentenced to 18 years in prison, and another in June was given 35 years — both for insulting the royal family.

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