Dissident musician sentenced to prison for royal defamation

Musician Parinya ‘Port’ Cheewinkulpathom has been sentenced to 9 years in prison on royal defamation charges for 3 Facebook posts made in 2016.

Parinya ‘Port’ Cheewinkulpathom

Parinya, 37, is the last member of the protest band Faiyen remaining in Thailand, the rest of the band having fled Thailand to Laos before seeking asylum in France.  He was charged with royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act for 3 Facebook posts he made in 2016.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that the three posts included one post in which Parinya wrote that a monarchy that is protected by the royal defamation law which carries a severe penalty is “credulous” (สิ่งงมงาย). In another post, Parinya shared a news report about an attempted military coup in Turkey in July 2016 and commented that it failed because the country didn’t have a king to endorse the coup. Another post, made on 30 July 2016, contains part of a song Parinya said he wrote recently about an “institution” that commits atrocities in the country.

The Criminal Court yesterday (15 August) found Parinya guilty on all three counts and sentenced him to 9 years in prison, but reduced his sentence to 6 years because he gave useful testimony. The Court also denied the police’s request to retain the mobile phone and laptop they confiscated when they arrested Parinya on 5 March 2021, as the prosecution was not able to prove that the phone and laptop were used to make the posts.

Parinya was later granted bail in order to appeal, using a security of 300,000 baht. He was given the condition that he must not leave the country.

In an interview before his sentencing, Parinya told TLHR that he thinks that all criminal defamation laws should be repealed, leaving only a single section in the Civil and Commercial Code which covers everyone. He also said that calling for monarchy reform is already a compromise, that the monarchy cannot be overthrown, and that accepting criticism would be better for it in the long run, but there are still people in the country who see such criticism as a threat. Nevertheless, he thinks it is no longer possible for the authorities to use the law to silence people.

“Those in power should learn and adjust so that the society can criticize, investigate, and talk about the monarchy without going to jail, because no matter how many people criticize or talk about it, the monarchy is never going to fall,” he said.

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