A former civil servant has been given a record prison sentence of 43 years after admitting to having defamed the monarchy in Thailand.
On Tuesday, at the Bangkok Criminal Court, the woman, named Anchan, was sentenced to 29 counts of violating the country´s lese majeste law after sharing audio clips to Facebook and YouTube with comments deemed critical of the monarchy as reported by The Daily Mail.
The majeste law, more commonly known as Article 112, which forbids people from criticising the Thai monarchy is punishable by three to 15 years’ imprisonment per count.
The woman, in her sixties, was handed 43 years and six months in prison, a sentence which had been reduced from 87 years after her guilty plea.
Her case dates back six years, when anti-establishment sentiment was growing after a 2014 military coup led by Prayuth, Commander of the Royal Thai Army. She was held in jail from January 2015 to November 2018.
The woman denied the charges when her case was first heard in a military court, where lese majeste offenses were prosecuted for a period after the coup.
However, after her case was transferred to a criminal court, she pleaded guilty in the hope that leniency would be shown because she had only shared the audio rather than liking or commenting on any posts.
She said: “I thought it was nothing. There were so many people who shared this content and listened to it. The guy (who made the content) had done it for so many years. So I didn´t really think this through and was too confident and not being careful enough to realize at the time that it wasn´t appropriate.”
Anchan had worked as a civil servant for 40 years and had been arrested just one year before she was due to retire, with a conviction meaning she would lose her pension.
The sentence, which comes amid an ongoing protest movement that has seen unprecedented public criticism of the monarchy, was swiftly condemned by rights groups.
Thailand’s Article 112 is controversial not only because it can be used to punish acts as simple as liking a Facebook post but also because anyone can lodge a complaint of royal defamation, meaning the accused could be tied up in legal proceedings for years according to Daily Mail.