Thailand

Activist Sentenced to Two and a Half Years in Prison for Sharing BBC Article

First person convicted for insulting the new king

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mannhhai/flickr

Thailand government critic Jatupat Bonnpattaraksa, a.k.a. Pai, has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for lese-majeste, or insulting the king.

Pai, a former law student who has been outspoken about the military junta running the country, was arrested just two days after Maha Vajiralongkorn took the throne as the new king last December. Pai's crime: sharing a BBC Thai profile of Vajiralongkorn. The article was fairly objective—you can read the English-language version of it here—and thousands of people shared it on social media. Pai was the only one targeted by authorities.

Pai pled guilty and had a five-year sentence reduced to two and a half. "Pai confessed," his attorney told Reuters. "He knew that if he tried to fight the charges it would not be of any use."

As Reuters notes, the number of arrests for the crime of lese-majeste has increased sharply since the military overthrew the democratically elected government back in 2014. The arrests have often targeted government critics.

"Jatupat's case is only the latest in the Thai government's increasingly repressive and arbitrary attempts to chill expression online and censor content critical of the state, including banning interaction with certain exiled dissidents and making it a crime to simply view lese majeste content," the Electronic Freedom Foundation's Gennie Gebhart writes. "These extremes are not just about stopping the flow of information; they are also about spreading fear among users that the authorities may be watching what they read, share, and say online."

Human Rights Watch condemned the verdict, and in a statement its Asia director, Brad Adam, suggested Pai was "prosecuted for his strong opposition to military rule more than for any harm incurred by the monarchy."

Amnesty International also condemned the verdict. "This verdict shows the extremes to which the authorities are prepared to go in using repressive laws to silence peaceful debate, including on Facebook," Amnesty International's Josef Benedict said in a statement.

This sort of repression should be a reminder of the importance of the First Amendment. As hate-crime laws are coopted to cover classes of people like police officers, it's easy to imagine how hate-speech rules could be similarly deployed. Pai's persecution also highlights the importance of protecting anonymity online. The rise of trolling has led to calls to eliminate anonymity on the internet; Facebook has made it difficult to use the site without revealing your identity, even as it also becomes a tool and traffic hub for activism. Facebook is free to run its own network the way it wants, but opponents of anonymity need to understand that anonymity doesn't just protect trolls; it protects people from troll governments.

Please share your totally appropriate and not-at-all insulting comments about the Thai king in the comment thread below.

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  1. “This sort of repression should be a reminder of the importance of the First Amendment”

    Wait, you’re saying the First Amendment is important? Ed, are you aware of what’s been going on at REASON lately?

    1. Where have they not stood up for free speech?

  2. silence peaceful debate, including on Facebook

    Remember when the internet was supposed to be all about spreading knowledge and helping freedom grow, rather than armies of censors doing the bidding of each repressive regime? Fun times.

    1. I feel like you don’t understand how influential the internet has become. It effects all of our lives and allows people to share ideas and argue from all different worlds and lifestyles.

      What could be more sickening and in need of control than that?

  3. So are Americans supposed to be outraged at this? I mean, come on, it’s just Thailand’s version of a hate crime.

  4. How could the guy get into trouble for insulting the new king? I mean, the wife is standing right there, how could you miss that target? I’ve heard of pad thai, that’s a padded Thai. Did the king have to thai one on before he married that? Thailand’s king? She looks like something from Stephen King.

    And so on.

    1. Cocky little guy, aren’t you? Go to Thailand and try that shit and see what happens.

    2. The man’s a king and that the best he could do?

      1. And in Thailand, no less!

        1. He gets his kicks above the waistline, sunshine.

    3. You never know, she might have looked a lot better not long before that picture was taken. I’ve noticed a lot of Asian women, especially Thai, age a little differently than other women. They’ll sometimes go well into their 50’s still looking like they’re in their 30’s and then one day, out of the blue, they go from looking like Jaime Chung to the long lost love child of Gollum and Yoda. Maybe that photo was taken on that day. It would explain why the king looks less than thrilled to be standing next to … that.

    4. I’m pretty sure that’s his mother, not his wife. His most recent wife was pretty easy on the eyes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srirasmi_Suwadee

      Anyway, I think that insulting the queen or queen mother is right out in Thailand too.

  5. Bad Pai

  6. The image makes me dream for a day that modern photographic technology reaches Thailand.

  7. It’s long been established that words are violence. This guy was trying to assassinate the king! 2.5 years for regicide seems pretty light. You libertarians are crazy.

    /Prog

  8. The article was fairly objective…

    Which I’m sure would have been the problem.

  9. Massively disappointed with the article after finding out that you were referring to the BBC as the broadcasting organization.

  10. You should not criticize the Thai King’s wife. You do not know their inner lives. You correctly oppose lese majesty.

  11. I no like Bad Thai anymore.

    Fuck you king of Thailand!

  12. Ride to an obese Sumo wrestler’s septic tank on a pig with a dildo for a saddle and swan dive into it with a picture of your wife crumpled up in your mouth and a cormorant’s beak lathered in jalapeno pepper up your urethra, you censorious, totalitarian, fascist, inbred, thin-skinned, thick-skulled, mentally impaired, physically unremarkable CUNT LINT!

    PBBBT!

  13. King? Well, I didn’t vote for you.

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