BANGKOK (Reuters) – A court in Thailand sentenced a man to two years in prison on Friday for insulting the monarchy by defacing a portrait of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, his lawyers said, the first sentencing for lese majeste in more than a year.
Narin Kulpongsathorn, 33, was found guilty of putting a sticker bearing the logo of a political satire Facebook page on a large portrait of the monarch outside the Supreme Court during a political rally in September 2020.
Narin, who denied the charge, was released on bail pending an appeal, according to the Thai Lawyers’ for Human Rights, which represents many Thais charged with lese majeste offences.
The court could not be reached for confirmation of the sentence. Thailand’s courts typically do not publicise legal proceedings.
The country has some of the world’s strictest lese majeste laws, which make it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir or regent and carry punishments of three to 15 years in jail for each offence.
Thailand has come under international scrutiny for its harsh penalties for perceived royal insults. The government says the monarchy is a matter of national security and must be protected.
The law was in the spotlight last year when some Thai lawmakers called for a parliamentary review of its application.
Opposition parties have been concerned by a surge in the number of arrests and lese majeste charges against government critics among a youth-led protest movement that had openly called for reforms to the monarchy.
At least 173 people were charged with royal insult over the past 16 months, according to the Thai Lawyers’ for Human Rights group.
The last conviction was in January last year, when a 66-year old woman was jailed for 43 years for violating the law 29 times in sharing and posting content on social media.
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(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Martin Petty)