LGBTQ activist sentenced to 25 years for insulting Thai monarchy

Ruj Chuenban
LGBTQ activist sentenced to 25 years for insulting Thai monarchy Protesters flash the three-finger salute outside the Criminal Court during a demonstration against Article 112, Thailand’s lèse-majesté royal defamation law, in Bangkok, Dec. 22, 2021.
Jack Taylor/AFP

A Thai court on Thursday handed down a 25-year prison sentence to an LGBTQ activist for insulting the monarchy via a series of social media posts during the rule of former Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha.

The sentence, initially set at 50 years under Thailand’s strict royal defamation law, was cut in half by the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court after a guilty plea by the defendant, a woman whose name was not released by the court but is known by the alias Maggie.

The Yasothon province woman, 26, was charged under the lèse-majesté law as well as the Computer Crime Act, resulting from tweets between December 2022 and October 2023.  

“She posted 18 messages on an unspecified social media platform [X, formerly Twitter] that referenced the Thai monarchy. These messages formed the basis of the charges against her under Article 112, Thailand’s lèse-majesté law,” part of the judgment stated. 

The charges resulted from the social media postings, with 14 being prosecuted under Article 112 and four under the Computer Crime Act. The original sentences amounted to 42 years for the lèse-majesté charges and eight years for the computer crime charges.

Prior to her arrest on Oct. 20, 2023, Maggie worked as a temporary department store employee and had been participating since 2020 in demonstrations organized by the Ratsadon, or the People’s Movement group, according to the court.

In 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Thailand, massive pro-democracy street protests in Bangkok called for the removal of then-PM Prayuth, who came to power after leading a military coup in 2014, and reforms to Article 112. Critics of his government said it was using lèse-majesté to go after political dissidents.

A new, civilian-led government took power last September after the 2023 general election but it has ties to the military. 

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said Maggie had been in detention for 144 days since the investigation phase of the case began while being denied bail.

“Thank you to everyone outside for pushing forward, keeping track of those of us inside, and for all the moral support. As for me, on the inside, I will continue to fight. Thank you all so much,” Maggie told journalists after hearing the verdict. 

‘Increase transparency’

Assistant professor Piyapong Pimpaluck, a researcher from the Social Research Institute at Chiang Mai University, said Thailand needed to be more cautious about enforcing laws that violate human rights. 

“The continuous occurrence of Article 112 cases, even under civilian governments, indicates that Thailand needs to review its use of laws to align with international human rights standards. We also need to increase transparency and justice in the judicial process,” Piyapong told BenarNews.

“It’s clear that the Thai government lacks seriousness in promoting and protecting human rights, which could negatively affect Thailand’s international image in the future.”

Since July 2020, when the pro-democracy rallies began, at least 1,951 people have been prosecuted in connection with the demonstrations across 1,279 cases, according to TLHR.

Of these, at least 268 individuals were charged with violating lèse-majesté for allegedly insulting the monarchy, TLHR said, adding at least 40 people involved in the protests are detained on a series of political charges.

Earlier this year, the Thai Court of Appeal sentenced an activist from Chiang Rai to 50 years over Facebook posts criticizing the monarchy. 

The court in January added 22 years to the original sentence of Mongkol Tirakot. One year earlier, the Chiang Rai Provincial Court found Mongkol guilty of violating Article 112 as a result of 14 posts – each carrying a two-year prison term.


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