A former co-leader of pro-democracy demonstrations who later switched to support a party linked to former prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has received a suspended sentence for royal defamation in connection with a rally staged in February 2022.
Chinnawat “Bright” Chankrachang on Thursday posted a message on his Facebook page saying that the Criminal Court had convicted him under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese-majeste law, and sentenced him to the minimum applicable term of three years.
“But the court notified me that I have turned over a new leaf and carried out community work to benefit society,” he wrote. “The court then suspended my jail term for two years and ordered me to report to probation officials."
He had declared earlier on his Facebook page that he used to be misguided but now he practised Dhamma and took a different view.
Chinnawat was a former co-leader of the Rasadon group, which staged street protests against the military-backed government led by Gen Prayut. He later switched sides by helping candidates of the Prayut-linked United Thai Nation Party (UTN) campaign in Nonthaburi for the general election in May this year.
According to data from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) up to Nov 30 this year, 1,935 people have been prosecuted for political participation and expression since the beginning of the Free Youth protests in July 2020. At least 262 are facing lese-majeste charges under Section 112 and 135 have been charged with sedition under Section 116.
Earlier this week, a 32-year-old online clothing seller named Jirawat (surname withheld), was sentenced to 9 years in jail, later reduced to 6 years, for sharing three Facebook posts deemed harmful to the monarchy. He is currently seeking bail pending an appeal, according to TLHR.
The three offending posts included one about “elephant tickets” that guaranteed favourable police promotions, one about Siam Biosciences’ vaccine production, and a speech by activist Passaravalee ”Mind” Thanakijvibulphol.
One of the most prominent people convicted of lese-majeste and denied bail pending an appeal is human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa. After the courts rejected three petitions for temporary release, he instructed his lawyers to abandon further attempts.
Mr Arnon has been detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison since his sentencing on Sept 26 in connection with a speech he made at a pro-democracy rally in October 2020. He is still facing 13 other charges under Section 112.
In a letter released earlier via THLR, Arnon said bail should be the right of every individual until a case is concluded, adding that the Supreme Court’s rejection of his bail application was not unexpected for a political case and for a political prisoner like him.
He said the fact that he was sentenced to imprisonment did not mean that he accepted the charges against him because he did not confess.