Bangkok (AFP) – A Thai man was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Wednesday for uploading audio clips that insulted royal family members, his lawyer said, the latest harsh verdict under a defamation law that shields the monarchy from scrutiny.
Tara, whose last name was withheld to protect his relatives, was convicted on six counts of lese majeste, according to his lawyer Yaowalak Anuphan and iLaw, a group that tracks royal defamation cases.
He was detained in January 2015 for posting audio clips produced by ‘DJ Banpodj’, an underground podcast host known for fiery criticism of the powerful monarchy.
Later that year police claimed to arrest the DJ and nearly a dozen others allegedly linked to the ‘Banpodj Network’.
“Tara would take the links and upload the clips to his own website,” said Yingcheep Atchanont from iLaw, adding that most of the content concerned the late king and queen.
A Bangkok military court official confirmed the sentencing.
Lese majeste cases are routinely shrouded in secrecy, while media are forced to self-censor the details to avoid breaching the law.
Prosecutions have surged under Thailand’s ultra-royalist junta, with more than 100 people charged since the 2014 coup.
The legislation specifically outlaws defaming the king, queen, heir or regent, with up to 15 years per offence.
But it has been broadly-interpreted to crush any criticism of the monarchy, an opaque, ultra-rich institution that wields vast power behind the scenes in Thailand.
Prosecutions and record sentences have continued under Thailand’s new king Maha Vajiralongkorn, who took the throne in late 2016 after the death of his deeply revered father.