Thai Activist and Lawmaker Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Monarchy Insults

Thai activist-turned-lawmaker Rukchanok Srinork has been sentenced to six years in prison for alleged insults against the monarchy on social media. The ruling comes amid growing concerns over the enforcement of Thailand’s strict lese-majeste laws.

Rukchanok, 29, a parliamentarian with the progressive Move Forward Party, faced charges related to two social media posts made in 2020 on platform X (formerly Twitter). One post accused the government of using COVID-19 vaccine distribution to boost the monarchy’s image, while the other was a retweet of an anti-monarchy quote by 18th-century French philosopher Denis Diderot.

The court found Rukchanok guilty on both counts under Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code, known as lese-majeste, and additionally convicted her under the Computer Crime Act. Critics argue that the broad provisions of the Computer Crime Act pose a threat to freedom of expression online.

Rukchanok, nicknamed “Ice,” denied posting the tweets, calling the case against her “weak.” Despite her appeal and application for bail, if denied, she risks losing her lawmaker status.

The progressive Move Forward Party, which campaigned for constitutional reform and the abolition of the lese-majeste law, faced challenges after winning the May general election. Powerful conservative forces ultimately out-maneuvered the party, preventing it from forming a government.

The sentencing adds to the ongoing controversy surrounding Thailand’s lese-majeste law, considered one of the strictest globally. Critics argue that it stifles political dissent, with the law carrying a maximum jail sentence of 15 years for each perceived insult to the monarchy.

Rukchanok, once a defender of the conservative establishment, gained prominence as an activist in the 2020 youth-led pro-democracy movement. The court’s decision reflects a broader trend, with at least 262 people charged with insulting the monarchy since 2020, according to data from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

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