A Thai Web radio host was sentenced to five years in prison Tuesday — the first verdict by a military court in cases involving alleged defamation of the country's monarchy. After invoking martial law and staging a May 22 coup, the military has intensified a crackdown on criticism of the monarchy and has announced that prosecution of all such cases will be heard in military courts.
The court on Tuesday found Kathawut Boonpitak guilty of lese majesty — Thai law forbids defaming, insulting or threatening the monarchy — for comments he made on a program aired on his website in March, said Sasinan Thamnithinan, one of the lawyers representing Kathawut.
Thailand's lese majeste law is the world's harshest, mandating prison terms of three to 15 years.
Sasinan, who works for the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights Center, said the court reduced Kathawut's prison term from 10 years because he confessed to the offense. However, she said the sentence was long compared with those issued by civilian courts, which usually call for three to five years' imprisonment for this type of offense if a defendant does not plead guilty.
Under martial law, defendants cannot appeal the verdicts of military courts.
Kathawut was summoned by the junta in June and has since been in military and police custody.
Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, is 86 years old and in poor health. His fading from public life and the palace's perceived role in political battles that began in 2006 have diminished the monarchy in recent years, undermining what had been near-universal respect from the Thai public.
The Associated Press