Thai activist and lawyer sentenced to four years in prison for insulting monarchy

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Arnon Nampa

26th September 2023 – (Bangkok) In a highly notable lese-majeste case in Thailand, an activist and lawyer renowned for his calls for reform of the country’s powerful monarchy has been sentenced to four years in prison for royal insults, according to a judge’s ruling on Tuesday.

Arnon Nampa, a 39-year-old human rights lawyer, gained widespread recognition for his provocative speech during the 2020 pro-democracy protests, where he advocated for open discussions on the role of the Thai king. Arnon maintains his innocence.

Thailand’s lese-majeste law, which protects the palace from criticism, carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years for each perceived insult towards the monarchy. This punishment has drawn severe criticism from international human rights organizations for its extreme nature.

Arnon played a prominent role in the youth-led democracy movement that organized mass demonstrations in Bangkok in 2020, calling for the removal of Prayut Chan-o-cha, a royalist former prime minister who had come to power through a coup.

The guilty verdict against Arnon stems from his remarks about the monarchy during a speech at a 2020 rally. This case is the first of 14 charges he faces for violating Article 112 of the criminal code, also known as the royal insults law.

“We are working to secure bail for him,” said lawyer Krisadang Nutcharus, adding that Arnon’s legal team intends to appeal and, if necessary, take the case to the Supreme Court.

Despite the conviction, Arnon, who had been out on bail since early last year after periods of detention, was not immediately taken into custody on Tuesday and remained at the court while awaiting a bail request.

Hundreds of individuals have faced charges under Article 112, one of the world’s most stringent royal insults laws. Some offenders have received decades-long sentences, including a 64-year-old woman who was imprisoned for 43 years. The palace typically refrains from commenting on such cases.