Man sentenced to 20 years for insulting Thai queen

Lese majeste is the crime of insulting a monarch, and Thailand`s laws against it are the most severe in the world.

Last Updated: Nov 23, 2011, 20:16 PM IST

Bangkok: Thailand`s criminal court sentenced
a 61-year-old man to 20 years in prison on Wednesday for sending text
messages deemed offensive to the country`s queen.

The court found Amphon Tangnoppaku guilty on four counts
under the country`s lese majeste and computer crime laws,
sentencing him to five years imprisonment for each charge.

Lese majeste is the crime of insulting a monarch, and
Thailand`s laws against it are the most severe in the world.

Even repeating the details of an alleged offence is illegal.
The court said Amphon had sent offencive text messages in
May 2010 to a personal secretary of then Prime Minister
Abhisit Vejjajiva. Amphon denied the charges, saying he was
unfamiliar with the text message function on mobile phones and
did not know the recipient of the message.

Lese majeste arrests and convictions in Thailand spike
during times of instability, when the law is used by political
rivals to harass opponents. That has been the case since a
2006 military coup ushered in years of political upheaval that
has at times spiraled into violent street confrontations.

Amnesty International`s Benjamin Zawacki condemned today`s
verdict, accusing the government of suppressing freedom of
expression.

"Thailand has every right to have a (lese majeste) law,
but its current form and usage place the country in
contravention of its international legal obligations," Zawacki
told a news agency. "Repression remains the order of
the day in Thailand on freedom of expression, and Amphon is a
political prisoner."

Amphon was arrested August 3, 2010, and detained at
Bangkok Remand Prison without bail after being indicted by the
public prosecutor for lese majeste.

Before his arrest, he had lived with his wife, daughter-
in-law and three grandchildren in a rented room in Samut
Prakan province, on the outskirts of Bangkok. He is retired
and receives USD 100 monthly allowance from his children. He
has mouth cancer, and has required regular medical care since
2007.

PTI