Thai opposition MP jailed for 6 years under royal insult law

Nontarat Phaicharoen
Thai opposition MP jailed for 6 years under royal insult law Rukchanok Srinork, a lawmaker from the Move Forward Party, stands outside court ahead of a hearing on her royal defamation case in Bangkok on Dec. 13, 2023.
Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews

A Thai court on Wednesday sentenced an opposition lawmaker from the Move Forward Party to six years in jail for insulting the monarchy.

Rukchanok Srinork, 29, was found guilty under Thailand’s Lèse-Majesté law for posting messages deemed insulting to the royal family on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

After the ruling, some of Rukchanok’s supporters burst into tears as she was handcuffed and led from the courtroom. She was heard telling her legal team, “Don’t worry, we'll meet again.”

Rukchanok was ruled to have threatened King Maha Vajiralongkorn with two messages posted to X in 2021. One was an invitation for people to wear black on the king’s birthday and another concerned the monarchy’s links to COVID-19 vaccines.

Rukchanok initially denied making the posts, but later admitted she was responsible when “investigators proved her connection” to the X account, the Bangkok Criminal Court said in a statement.

“After examining the defendant’s behavior and all evidence, we believe the defendant is guilty of violating Article 112 [Lèse-Majesté] and is being sentenced to six years on two counts,” the court said.

The Appeals Court set Rukchanok’s bail at 500,000 baht ($14,000).

Rukchanok Srinork (left) arrives at Bangkok Criminal Court to hear the ruling on her royal defamation case alongside former party leader, Pita Limjaroenrat (middle), and current leader, Chaithawat Tulathon (right) on Dec. 13, 2023. [Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews]

Rukchanok, a former pro-democracy activist, appeared in court as Thailand’s Parliament convened for the first time in months on Wednesday. She told reporters she had asked for the ruling to be postponed, but the court refused.

“So I came to hear the verdict, hoping for a favorable outcome,” she said before the hearing.

Thailand’s royal insult law is among the strictest in the world and carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in jail. 

Since July 2020, when pro-democracy protesters flooded the streets calling for the ousting of former Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, at least 262 people have been charged with Lèse-Majesté, with at least seven jailed, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

The Move Forward Party, which won the most votes in Thailand’s general election in May, pledged to amend the law as part of an ambitious reform agenda that also included altering the constitution, ending business monopolies and modernizing the justice system and army. 

But the party was unable to form government after its top prime ministerial nominee, Pita Limjaroenrat, was twice blocked by Thailand’s bicameral Parliament.

Conservative and pro-royal lawmakers are vehemently opposed to Move Forward’s progressive policies, including its pledge to reform Lèse-Majesté.

Rukchanok, who announced her candidacy for Move Forward in January, won her seat in Jomthong-Bangbon-Nongkam district against more fancied rivals.

A graduate of the politically-oriented Thammasat University, she campaigned against cronyism and promoted greater equality for all Thais.


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