Thai court sentences political activist to two years in prison for insulting Queen

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A Thai court on Monday sentenced a 25-year-old political activist, Jatuporn Saeoueng, to two years in prison for ‘mocking’ the queen during a protest in 2020 (Jatuporn Saeoueng / Facebook)
A Thai court on Monday sentenced a 25-year-old political activist, Jatuporn Saeoueng, to two years in prison for ‘mocking’ the queen during a protest in 2020 (Jatuporn Saeoueng / Facebook)

An activist in Thailand was sentenced to two years in prison under the royal defamation law by a court on Monday.

Jatuporn “New” Saeoueng, 25, was sentenced to two years for attending a pro-democracy protest in October 2020 in traditional Thai attire that the court interpreted as “mocking” and “insulting” to the queen.

Lawyers for the activist said that they were trying to get her bail after she was sentenced by the criminal court for insulting the monarchy and violating the Public Assembly Act two years ago at a protest held in Bangkok’s Silom area.

Reuters reported that the protest, which also featured a “mock fashion show” for which the activist was dressed as the Queen, was a counter to a fashion show being held by Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, daughter of King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand.

Local media said that the protesters were angry and that the rally was called to oppose the use of THB13 million (US$416,000) in public funds to promote a fashion show linked to the royals.

During the protest, as Ms Saeoueng walked down the red carpet, other protesters chanted “Long live the Queen!”

A supporter of the royal family, Waritsanun Sribawornthanaki, filed a complaint which said that Ms Saeoueng had “ridiculed the queen”.

The activist was indicted in July last year on a charge of royal defamation, a crime also known as “lese majeste” in Thailand and that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights say that since November 2020 there have been 210 people in the country charged with a total of 229 violations of the “lese majeste” law.

“Thirteen cases have come to trial, and charges were dismissed in three of them,” they say.

Meanwhile, Ms Saeoueng told the media just before the court ruling: “I have no intention to mock anyone. I dressed for myself on that day, for a version of myself in a Thai traditional dress. And today, I dress the same way to show that this is just me, in a Thai traditional dress and to ask -- what’s wrong with that?”

She is also going to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court. She was also ordered by the court to pay a fine of THB1,000 (£23.5) on Monday.

“The mock fashion show was a satirical take on the political situation of the country – a peaceful public event akin to a street festival with music, food and dancing,” Kyle Ward, deputy secretary general of the human rights group Amnesty International, said in an emailed statement to Reuters. “Participants should not be punished for participating in a peaceful assembly.”

Amnesty also urged the authorities to “immediately drop all charges against those who have merely exercised their human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and release those arbitrarily detained”.