Bangkok: The Thai Criminal Court Monday sentenced two actors to two years and six months of imprisonment for the crime of "lese-majeste", media reported.
Patiwat Saraiyaem, a 23-year-old student, and activist Porntip Mankong, 26, pleaded guilty to defaming the monarchy, or lese-majeste, during a performance of `The Wolf Bride`, a fictional satire in October 2013.
The court lowered the initial five-year sentence since the defendants admitted to the charges, but refused to suspend the prison sentence completely, according to the newspaper Prachatai.
"It is yet another serious blow to freedom of expression in Thailand and another dark mark on Thailand`s already battered international reputation," said Brad Adams, the Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
"Vowing to protect the monarchy, the junta has accelerated efforts to hunt down alleged lese majeste actions and statements, and prosecute people for peaceful expression of views, like conducting a play, posting online, or making a speech," said Adams.
According to Article 112 of the Thai penal code, acts of lese-majeste, including "insults, defamation or threats" against the king, the queen, the crown prince or regent can be punished by up to 15 years of imprisonment.
Although Thai monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej said in 2005 that he was not above criticism, lese-majeste complaints increased in recent years amidst the deep political divide in the country.
The number of such cases has soared even more, with nearly 50 new cases since the military imposed martial law and took power in a coup d`etat in May last year.