Thai court acquits 80-year-old writer of defaming monarchy. Last week the court handed down a 43 1/2 year sentence under the law to a woman arrested six years ago who filed audio online slots that were considered critical of the monarchy. A former civil servant was sentenced to 87 years in prison for confessing to a crime.
An 80-year-old author accused of defaming the Thai monarchy in 2015 over remarks he made at a public conference on the constitution was released on Tuesday by the Criminal Court.
The court ruled that Bundit Aneeya did not violate the law of lese magistrates because he did not speak specifically about royalty and did not use crude language.
The penalty for breaking the law is imprisonment for three to 15 years each.
Last week the court handed down a 43 1/2 year sentence under the law to a woman arrested six years ago who filed audio online slots that were considered critical of the monarchy. A former civil servant was sentenced to 87 years in prison for confessing to a crime.
In the past two months, authorities have followed up on serious cases against at least 54 people, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.
They did so after publicly criticizing the monarchy, which was largely unknown, by a youth-led organization that supported democracy. The protest movement calls for a change in the monarchy, which it says is unavailable and has too much power over what should be a democratic monarchy.
After King Maha Vajralongkorn ascended the throne in 2016 following the death of his father, he informed the government that he did not wish to see the implementation of the lese magistrates’ law. But as protests intensified last year and criticism of the monarchy intensified, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned that the queue had been crossed and that the law would be enforced.
He was prosecuted for saying at a conference at the Thammasat University of Bangkok that “the value and dignity of the Thai people must be more than dust under human feet.”
Traditionally, Thai citizens who consider themselves to be the king’s servants call themselves “dust under your feet” when they officially address the king.
The meeting was convened by a group of activists who opposed the 2014 military coup, and demanded public opinion on a draft constitution to replace the one who had been disbanded.
Police and military personnel monitored the meeting and took Bundit into custody as soon as he proposed five principles to be included in the document, including human dignity.
The suspect was formally charged in 2017 alone, when a military prosecutor said his remarks were directed at the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The law of lese magistrates should apply to the king, his immediate family and any regent, but is sometimes widely used.
It was the third magistrate’s case filed against Bundit, who is in poor health. He was convicted in one of the previous trials, where he received a suspended sentence, and in another case he was acquitted.