Trans woman sentenced to prison for royal defamation

A 23-year-old trans woman has been sentenced to 4 years in prison on a royal defamation charge for sharing a Facebook post criticizing the Thai royal family’s public relations campaigns, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said today (26 September).

Absorn was charged with royal defamation for sharing a post made by academic and political exile Pavin Chachavalpongpun (Photo from TLHR)

According to TLHR, Absorn (pseudonym) a 23-year-old private company employee, was charged in November 2020 with royal defamation and bringing into a computer system data which affects national security under the Computer Crimes Act for sharing a Facebook post written by academic and political exile Pavin Chachavalpongpun. The complaint against her was filed by Suraphop Chanpleng on behalf of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES).

The post claimed that the Thai royal family launched a public relations campaign in order to compete with pro-democracy protesters, such as by having Princess Sirivannavari, King Vajiralongkorn’s youngest daughter, join a dance event, or reporting that Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, the King’s royal consort, supported a Royal Project by buying products from the Sai Jai Thai Foundation.

Pavin criticized this campaign as outdated, and compared it to the royal families in other countries who participate in activities supporting democracy and human rights.

Absorn only shared the post and did not add any caption. However, the public prosecutor decided to indict her in November 2021 on the grounds that the post contain false information and may mislead the public into thinking that the King is an enemy of the people and tries to interfere with politics. The prosecutor also said that the post was rude and intended to cause hatred against the King.

Absorn told TLHR after she was indicted that she was shocked to be facing charges, and that the post was shared onto her old Facebook account which she no longer used. She also immediately took the post down after a coworker warned her it might be illegal. After she was indicted, she was made to wait in the arraignment room for half a day before being granted bail, and said she was very concerned that, as a trans woman, she would be sent to a men’s prison, which would not be appropriate for her gender.

The Criminal Court today (26 September) sentenced her to 4 years in prison, but since she has never been previously sentenced to prison, the Court reduced her sentence to 2 years and suspended it for 3 years. She will also be on probation for 2 years, during which time she must report to her probation officer 3 times.

Since November 2020, at least 215 people in 234 cases are facing royal defamation charges for political expression and participation in the pro-democracy protests. Of this number, 11 cases resulted from complaints filed by the MDES.

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