In the first such ruling since the new king took Thailand’s throne, a military court Friday sentenced a man to 11 years and four months for violating the country’s strict royal defamation laws and committing computer crime.
Defendant Burin Intin pleaded guilty to charges of breaking the Lese-Majeste law that guards against royal defamation as well as the Computer Crimes Act (CCA) for posting messages on social media deemed as insults to the monarchy, his lawyer told BenarNews.
Burin, 27, who is employed as a welder, was arrested April 27, 2016, while taking part in a street protest in Bangkok against a coup that brought Thailand’s military government to power in May 2014. Two days later, authorities charged him with violating Lese-Majeste and the CCA, attorney Anon Nampa said.
Burin faced the prospect of a combined sentence of 22 years and eight months, but had this reduced by half because he pleaded guilty to both counts, the Associated Press reported.
While investigating the case, police found that he had sent a message to the mother of a protest organizer and had posted a comment on his Facebook page, both of which were deemed as insults against the royals.
The Lese-Majeste law, which carries a potential sentence of 15 years, prohibits the repetition or reproduction of defamatory content.
“The military court found he committed crimes on two occasions. The final sentence is 11 years and 4 months,” Anon told Benar News by phone.
“He will not appeal, though he has the right,” he said, adding that his client would seek a royal pardon.
Burin became the first person to be sent to prison under Lese-Majeste since King Maha Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne on Dec.1 following the death in October of his father, King Bhumbol Adulyadej, who ruled over Thailand for 70 years.
So far under the new king’s reign, one person has been charged under Lese-Majeste. An activist, Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa, has been jailed while he awaits trial for posting a BBC News profile of the new king that was seen by Thai authorities as defamatory and that was published on the day that Vajirarlongkorn became king.
Beginning with the May 2014 coup through Jan. 15, at least 73 people were charged with royal defamation, according to iLaw, a rights advocacy group.