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First royal defamation conviction for protest act sets a disturbing precedent for civic space, say rights groups

The conviction of Narin, who was sentenced last Friday (4 March 2022) to 3 years in prison on a royal defamation charge for putting a sticker over a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn, demonstrates the government’s intensifying targeting of individuals and allies of the pro-democratic movement, said F0RUM-ASIA, CIVICUS, and Asia Democracy Network, who call for the repeal of the royal defamation law and the immediate release of everyone detained under this law.

Narin (wearing a Guy Fawkes mask) with his supporters on the day of the hearing (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Following the conviction of Narin — a protester who placed a sticker over the Thai King’s portrait — under Article 112 (lese majeste) on Friday, 4 March 2022, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and Asia Democracy Network (ADN) said:

The conviction of Narin under Article 112 (lese majeste) for placing a sticker with the logo of a satire page ‘Gukult’ over a portrait of the King during a democracy protest in September 2020 sets a disturbing precedent for civic space in Thailand. This marks the first time that a Thai court sentenced an individual with imprisonment under the ‘vague and ambiguous’ lese majeste law for such an act during a protest. The verdict demonstrates the government’s intensifying targeting of individuals and allies of the pro-democratic movement.

Narin was found guilty and sentenced to three years, which was reduced to two years after his testimony. The court ruled that Narin had acted to ‘insult’ and ‘defame’ the King under Article 112.  Right after the reading of the decision, Narin was released on 100,000 THB bail. 

Thailand as a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) must respect and protect fundamental freedoms for all individuals. We reiterate our call to repeal Article 112, and all other laws used to curtail free expression and demand an immediate and unconditional release of all detainees who are being held in prison under this act. 

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